Sylvia Fowles will go down as the best center the WNBA has ever seen when she retires.
And when that day comes, we’ll turn to Fowles’ 2017 Game 5 Finals game against the Los Angeles Sparks.
Lynx fans will be able to re-watch that Oct. 4, 2017, game on Thursday, June 25, on Fox Sports North at 7 p.m. CT., but fans more than likely already have Fowles’ stat line from that game memorized.
Fowles recorded 17 points and a Finals record 20 rebounds to cap off one of the most illustrious WNBA seasons of all time. League MVP, Finals MVP, All-WNBA First Team, All-Defensive First Team and WNBA champion — how can you beat that?
But before she could make history, Fowles had to revisit the past.
If you’re a Lynx fan, you, unfortunately, also have the conclusion of the 2016 Finals etched in your mind. Fowles sure does.
The Star Tribune’s Kent Youngblood reported after the 2017 Finals that the dramatic 2016 loss, which was decided by a Nneka Ogwumike put-back basket “haunted” Fowles the following year. We’re nearly four years removed from that game, and I still have the urge to contest whether that basket should have counted. Another time.
Ogwumike recorded two offensive rebounds before clinching the series with that shot. You can’t tell me that the missed box out didn’t stick with Fowles.
“I wanted to come in and show my presence,” said Fowles in Youngblood’s article. “And if that was rebounding, then rebounding it was.”
Without that mentality, Fowles wasn’t recording 20 rebounds, drawing five fouls on Ogwumike, stopping a late Sparks run with a nifty post move, hoisting a Finals MVP trophy or becoming one of the greatest to ever play the game of basketball.
Skeptics can talk all they want about Fowles’ All-Star teammates and downplay her career because of their contributions. Yes, playing alongside greats like Maya Moore, Rebekkah Brunson, Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen will elevate your game.
But I think we often underestimate Fowles’ ability to join a dominant Lynx team with a beloved, unshakable core four and only improve rather than allowing her talent to be overshadowed.
Now, without Augustus, Brunson, Moore and Whalen playing alongside her, Fowles’ grit that was displayed on Oct. 4, 2017, and countless other times will be more valuable than ever.
Fowles’ leadership will of course be tested this season. How do you lead a team made up of many players you have yet to meet in person through a pandemic and a tumultuous time for our nation?
It’s a task that will prove to be more difficult than shooting 60% from the field while holding the Sparks to 34 points in the paint in Game 5 of the 2017 Finals.
But as we’ve said time and time again, if anyone can do it, it’s Sylvia Fowles.