Five years ago this week, the Minnesota Lynx completed a three-team trade with the Atlanta Dream and Chicago Sky to bring in dominant All-Star center Sylvia Fowles.
Although the Lynx were aware of the caliber of player Fowles was at the time, they didn’t quite know just how great she would be for the franchise both on and off the court in the coming years.
Since arriving in Minnesota in 2015, it’s been a match made in heaven for both the Lynx and Fowles. The pairing has won two WNBA Championships together in 2015 and 2017 and has seen the center rack up multiple accolades such as a Most Valuable Player award in 2017, a Defensive Player of the Year award in 2016 and multiple All-WNBA, All-Defense and All-Star nods leading into the 2020 season.
On Tuesday night at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., Fowles’ 13th season in the WNBA and sixth with Minnesota, the all-time great notched yet another impressive accomplishment when she became the league’s all-time leader in career rebounds with no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
“I’ve had the great fortune of being able to share in Syl’s tremendous journey as a professional basketball player,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said in a statement sent out by the team. “To witness her ability to dominate on the glass night in and night out has truly been special. Syl’s incredibly kind and generous way is just as unmatched as her rebounding. Congratulations to Syl on becoming the WNBA’s all-time greatest rebounder.”
Right before halftime against the Seattle Storm on Tuesday, Fowles hauled in her seventh rebound of the contest, recording career rebound No. 3,357 and becoming the WNBA’s all-time leader in the category. The record was previously held by former Lynx great and now Minnesota assistant coach Rebekkah Brunson, who posed with Fowles for photos at half court during the game to recognize the accomplishment.
“Congratulations to Sylvia Fowles on becoming the new WNBA all-time leader in rebounds, passing five-time WNBA champion, former teammate and now Lynx assistant Coach Rebekkah Brunson,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement. “Sylvia continues to exhibit an elite level of performance on the court in her 13th year in the league. A revered teammate and presence in the league, she demonstrates to the younger generation that hard work, determination and selflessness are pillars of a successful career.”
AN “UNBELIEVABLE MOMENT” FOR FOWLES
Although the game resulted in a loss for Fowles and Minnesota on Tuesday night, the moment Fowles achieved the top spot on the rebounding list was a special one for the veteran center.
“It was such an unbelievable moment. I’m very happy with how this panned out and I’m happy I had a chance to honor (Brunson) for all the work that she put in,” Fowles said after the game. “It still feels surreal at this moment. I will have some time to soak it all in and appreciate all the work that I put in over the last 13 years. … I will definitely celebrate it.”
After tallying yet another double-double in the game against the Storm, Fowles goes into Thursday night’s contest against the Chicago Sky sitting at 3,361 career boards. The only other active player somewhat within reach of Fowles on that list is former New York Liberty and current Washington Mystics center Tina Charles (3,133), who is sitting out the 2020 season, at No. 5 all-time. That means Fowles’ lead in the category will only continue to grow.
“I’m really proud of Syl. The fact that I could be a witness to so many rebounds and how valuable she has been to our franchise,” Reeve said. “And to pass Rebekkah Brunson, it’s just a special moment for our franchise. Two of the greatest of all-time. They are why our franchise has been so successful. I was happy Syl was able to get that done (Tuesday night). She’s leaving it all out there. Rebounding tells the story typically and defines who Syl is.”
FROM ONE LYNX GREAT TO ANOTHER
Another thing that made the moment of becoming the WNBA’s all-time rebounding leader even more special to the 13-year veteran Fowles was the fact that she was passing a close friend, former teammate and now coach in Brunson.
Fowles and Brunson have had a relationship throughout their entire playing careers and spent the 2015-18 seasons together in Minnesota, forming a feared duo in the paint that ended up winning two league titles with the Lynx.
“Me and (Brunson) go way back even before I got to the Minnesota Lynx. Just loving her game and her passion and the energy she put in every game to go out there and rebound,” Fowles said. “You always try to pamper yourself behind somebody and she’s a great role model that I had to watch and also had an opportunity to play with.”
In 2020, their relationship has continued to grow. Even though the two aren’t playing together on the court in games, Brunson still plays a large role in Fowles’ career as a coach. And Brunson had a front row seat to witnessing her close friend and former teammate pass her atop an all-time list on Tuesday.
“It means a lot of wins when you have Rebekkah Brunson and Sylvia Fowles,” Reeve said. “I got to be a part of so many of those rebounds and the relentless they both play with defensively and rebounding. It’s been invaluable to our franchise. … It’s incredible to think of because I know how incredible Rebakkah Brunson was at rebounding.
“It’s a cool moment for our franchise with Rebekkah being on staff and being able to be here to kind of hand off the lead so to speak. I know it’s something that Sylvia Fowles is really, really proud of. I know that Rebekkah is really proud that it is Sylvia Fowles that is passing her.”
Five years ago, Minnesota didn’t exactly know what it would end up getting in Fowles as she entered the franchise for the first time. But Fowles has been at the center of the success of the Lynx over the last handful of year and her latest accomplish is another example of just how dominant she has been throughout her career.