MINNEAPOLIS – Ask Sylvia Fowles if in mid-July she thought she would be standing at halfcourt of the Target Center with blue and white confetti all around her by mid-October, the answer would’ve been: probably not.
Ask Fowles if she thought she’d be hoisting two separate trophies within a five-minute span that same night? Get out of here. But if that were but a dream for Fowles at the time, now it’s a reality.
Fowles won the WNBA Finals MVP award just a year removed from playing with the Chicago Sky in the Finals and going home winless. Now, she goes home a WNBA champion.
The three-time All-Star averaged 15.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game throughout the Finals. Her 6-foot-6 presence was a major difference in the series. Her dominance in the post and on the glass caused the Indiana frontcourt fits.
When the Fever doubled Fowles, she found an open teammate. When they sent one player at her, she was able to shoot over the top of whoever had the daunting task of guarding her.
On the other end of the floor, Fowles looked like a former Defensive Player of the Year. She roamed the paint and didn’t allow Indiana to get anything easy at the rim. In Indiana’s Game 4 win, by and large the low point of Fowles’ series, the Fever took advantage of her absence due to foul trouble.
The Fever were crisp offensively and got the looks they wanted both inside and out. But when Fowles was on the floor, nothing came easy for Indiana.
“Sylvia, obviously, was big in this series,” head coach Cheryl Reeve said. “When she was in foul trouble, it was a problem for us. Game 1 and 2 here, she was really good, scored 20. Game 3, she was really good, but it was more distributing the basketball, and we were able to play off of her. It was one of our better offensive games because we shared the ball and we didn’t force things. Game 4, we virtually played without her. And then obviously stepped up in a big, big way [tonight].”
Fowles’ journey to WNBA Finals MVP was anything but a smooth ride. Fowles began the season with the Chicago Sky. Well, sort of. Fowles sat out the first half of the season after requesting a trade and Chicago, yet the Sky were initially unable to find a suitable trade partner to fit the request.
Minnesota was long thought to be a perfect fit for Fowles. The Lynx lacked a true back-to-the-basket frontcourt player, and on a team that had been plagued by a fluctuating rotation, the Lynx knew it had to make a move if the right opportunity presented itself.
Just a day after Maya Moore won the All-Star Game MVP, the Lynx and Sky finally broke through on trade talks. Fowles was headed to Minnesota in a three-team deal.
“Actually, I gave up after like the third attempt,” Fowles said of the trade talks. “I can recall my last time I was in California for the 4th of July, and I thought that the deal was going to go through, and I ended up booking the flight to go home, and nothing happened. At that point, I pretty much just gave up all hope and said that I wasn’t going to play this summer. But after All Star, we got that call, the happiest day of my life.”
Early on there were understandable struggles. With a core as battle-tested as the one Reeve utilized, it was always going to take some time to integrate Fowles into the mix.
Slowly but surely, it began to take shape. The Lynx endured a woeful stretch in August but still were able to claim the top spot in the Western Conference. And from there? They didn’t even think about looking back.
Wednesday’s win was even sweeter for Fowles given that she shared the court with longtime friend and collegiate teammate in Seimone Augustus. The two LSU graduates fought to win an NCAA title at Louisiana State University, but they could never quite get over the hump.
“It feels good doing it with everybody,” Fowles said. “So happy Seimone just so happened to be a part of it, but I’m just excited to do it with all these girls.”
When asked to put her Wednesday’s win into perspective – both the WNBA Finals MVP award and the WNBA championship – Fowles offered an answer that was true to who she is as a player.
She didn’t bite at the opportunity to take credit. No, in typical Sylvia Fowles fashion, the center credited her teammates for getting her open looks and fighting until the very end.
“We knew it was going to be hard,” Fowles said, “and we also knew at some point we were going to have the upper hand. But it just was all about staying together as a team whether we were up or we were down.”