Sylvia's Sky Story

In 2006, businessman Michael Alter founded the Chicago Sky bringing the city its first WNBA team. In that first season the Sky finished with a 5-29 record. The Sky have since come full circle, now in the franchise’s eighth season, the Sky currently sits atop the Eastern Conference staring their first ever playoff berth in the eye after just missing the playoffs in 2009 and 2012.

The Sky’s current success is largely attributed to the Sky’s 2008 second overall draft pick, center Sylvia Fowles known on the court as “Big Syl.” Fowles has been with the Sky the longest of the current roster and has experienced nearly all of the franchise’s ups and downs. In her previous five seasons with the Sky, Fowles’ teams never had a winning record. This season, that changed as the first place Sky secured its first winning season in franchise history with its win over the Washington Mystics on August 20.

Fowles, who owns two Olympic Gold medals, a World Championship gold medal and appearances in the NCAA Final Four all four years of her basketball career at Louisiana State University, has a winning history that she hoped could transfer to her WNBA career.

Fowles attended LSU where she had a largely successful basketball career playing under Sky Head Coach Pokey Chatman for three of her four seasons. Fowles was a two-time first-team All-American at LSU and both SEC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year her senior season (2008). Fowles has also earned two Olympic gold medals as a member of the USA women’s basketball team in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics while playing alongside teammate Swin Cash. She also earned a gold medal as a member of Team USA at the 2010 FIBA World Championships.

Big Syl has seen a lot of individual success in the WNBA. She is a three-time All-Star and one-time All-WNBA first team honoree. She is a three-time All-Defensive first team honoree and was named Defensive Player of the Year in 2011. In addition, she is the all-time leader in franchise history in total rebounds, offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, blocks, and minutes played. Her individual accomplishments are impressive but after admitting to a frustrating few seasons here as a team, Fowles is finally seeing all of the hard work really pay off.

In 2009, Fowles was forced to miss ten games because of injuries. The Sky were one win away from a playoff spot. With a 19-point halftime lead in its final game, the Sky collapsed in the second half to lose by 11. That put them in a three-way tie for the final playoff spot but did not win the tiebreaker. In 2012, the Sky started the season 7-1 looking like a team headed for the playoffs. Fowles missed Guard Epiphanny Prince went down to injury missing eight games after suffering a broken foot. Shortly after Prince returned, Fowles ended up missing nine games late in the season with a lower leg injury. The Sky finished the 2012 season one game out of the final playoff spot.

Fowles’ play this season has been a large part of the Sky’s success. She is averaging 16.3 points per game and a league leading 11.7 rebounds per game (after 26 games). She also leads the league with a 0.582 field goal percentage and ranks second in blocks with 2.39 per game. Fowles has earned Eastern Conference Player of the Week twice this season (July 8-14, August 12-18) and earned Eastern Conference Player of the Month for July. A 2013 All-Star, Fowles (after 26 games) has recorded 14 double-doubles this season, 17 double-digit rebound games, and two 30+ point scoring game. Fowles also became the first player in WNBA history to have two 20 point-20 rebound games in the same season.

Though the Sky have clinched a playoff berth, they have stated that they have loftier goals to hit. It starts with securing the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Sky currently lead the Eastern Conference by 3.5 games with seven games remaining. Though the Sky have seen their share of injuries this season, including Fowles, the team has stepped up when they needed it most. Back-to-back double-digit second half comebacks without their rookie Elena Delle Donne has shown how dangerous this team can be. This season has been another year where the Sky have had to battle their share of adversity. This time, they successfully overcame it. For the organization, it’s incredible fan base, and for Fowles, the wait is over.