It’s Time to Give Sylvia Fowles Her Dang Flowers

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Let’s all stand up for a legend. 

It’s time to give Sylvia Fowles the love she deserves. I want everybody reading this to just take five minutes out of their day — put the phone away, close the apps — and just appreciate one of the best to ever do it in this game. 

Fifteen years. Two chips. Two Finals MVPs. Four thousand rebounds. The résumé is the résumé. The icon is the icon. But today I just want to appreciate the person. 

Syl, we love you. 

I'll never forget when I came to the Lynx my rookie year, I was so nervous. I had just played in the Final Four and then graduated and made it to training camp in the span of like 14 days. It was all a whirlwind, and I didn't know anybody on the team. It was like those first day of school vibes, you know what I mean? Are they going to like me??? Am I gonna make friends??? What's SYLVIA FOWLES gonna be like???

I was so anxious. I got to the locker room, and I’m just trying to not embarrass myself — and of course within 30 seconds, the first person who came up to me was Syl. 

And immediately she was just like, “Baby, if you have any questions, you just come to me first, O.K.?”

Napheesa Collier | Minnesota Lynx | It’s Time to Give Sylvia Fowles Her Dang Flowers | The Players’ Tribune
David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Here is this legend, and she was just so welcoming, and so genuine, it made me feel so good. And she wasn't doing it as some empty gesture. She knew my head was going to be spinning. We get out on the floor for the first practice, and everything is so condensed in W training camps that we were learning 10–15 plays a day. Coach is calling out, “LOOP, LOOP UP, LOOP DOWN, LOOP IN, HORNS, HORNS TWIST, HORNS SMALL!!!”

There were so many variations and I was so confused that I literally started laughing. I was on the baseline, looking around, just giggling, because I’m like, “How is it humanly possible to remember all this? This is a joke right?” 

It was no joke. Next practice, it’s another 10 new twists on HORNS. 

After practice, I was like, “Uh ... Sylvia?”

Without a second thought, she says, “Don't worry, I got you, baby.” 

We came in early the next morning before practice and Syl ran me through all the variations. Think about that for a second. There’s only 144 roster spots in this league. It’s one thing to stick around in the W for 15 years, and it’s another thing to stay at the top for 15 years. But it’s even a whole other thing to stay at the top for 15 years while being an incredible teammate and an incredible person. 

Syl is just different.

I’ll never forget seeing her destroy the souls of a bunch of dudes for the first time. For those who don’t know, we practice against dudes in the W — on the Lynx we have a dedicated practice squad of guys who played college and overseas ball. So we're scrimmaging one day my rookie year, and a shot goes up, and Syl is in the paint. She goes up for the offensive rebound, but she's got three dudes hanging on her back — literally hanging on her — and she just takes them along for the ride. She goes up and snatches the board, palms the ball and does a reverse layup for the bucket. 

Of course, everyone is just like, “Ooohhhhhhhhh.” 

It was nasty. 

Anybody else would’ve been screaming, flexing — at least celebrating a little bit. But Syl didn’t even react. She just ran back down the court, no expression, like it was just another play. Like it was nothing. 

She made it look so easy. 

Napheesa Collier | Minnesota Lynx | It’s Time to Give Sylvia Fowles Her Dang Flowers | The Players’ Tribune
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

I truly don’t understand how Syl did it at such a high level for this long, and did it all with a smile on her face and a hug for everybody. I’ve seen fans come up to her in real life, they’ll try to shake her hand or give her a dap or something, and she’ll open up her arms and smile, and say, “Come on, I’m a hugger.” It doesn’t matter who it is. She’ll stand there talking with people for 10, 15 minutes sometimes. How many superstars in any sport would give people a bit of themselves like that? 

When I was pregnant with my daughter, Mila, this season, I was away from the team, and that’s never an easy thing for an athlete. One day, I’m sitting at home and I get this huge package delivered out of the blue. I open up the box and it’s this awesome care package for Mila. There’s baby books and a little finger painting set and all this cool stuff. But the most amazing thing was that there was a handknit blanket and a little beanie hat to keep her head warm. It’s got the poof on top and everything. I’m thinking it’s gotta be from Amazon. Then I look at the little tag on the front and it says Knits by Syl

I’m like … No. 

Yes. Handmade by the Legend. For my daughter. 

I had no idea that Syl even knew how to knit. She’s so low-key that she kept it from all of us. But it turns out that she's a legit master knitter on the side. She literally even knit the big basket that everything came in. I thought the basket had to be from Etsy, but no — it was all a Mama Syl production. 

I really have to pinch myself sometimes, because when my daughter was born, she was wrapped up in a blanket handmade by one of the greatest basketball players of all-time. Who else can say that? How did I get to be so lucky, to have such a legend as a teammate and as a friend? 

I can’t believe the ride is almost over. How can I sum up what Syl has meant to this game, and to me? 

I can’t, honestly. 

How did I get to be so lucky, to have such a legend as a teammate and as a friend?

Napheesa Collier

I just have so many little memories in my head that I want to leave you with, but the one that sticks out to me, for whatever reason — the one that I know will last a lifetime — has nothing to do with basketball. It’s kind of silly, but that’s probably fitting, so let’s go with it. 

It’s from the Bubble, actually. And let’s be real, that was not the easiest time. We were all kind of going stir crazy, and we missed our families, and there was so much time to kill. But we made it fun, somehow. They had this designated room that they had set aside for the players to hang out in, and it wasn’t much. So we ended up buying some speakers and a fog machine and a strobe light and everything — it was a vibe. 

We called it Club Lynx. Very exclusive. Very VIP. 

After one of our games, we’re all just sitting around playing games and having a few beverages and playing our early 2000s playlist (because it’s gotta be the early 2000s). And I don’t even know WHAT song came on, but Syl gets up and turns on the fog machine, and she starts busting these moves out of nowhere. She’s usually so chill, and I’d never seen her get down like that. All the lights are off, and the strobe light is going, and you just see Syl in silhouette breaking it down. Down down. 

Everyone was just looking at each other like, Is this happening??? 

It was iconic. 

I am going to miss those times more than anything. Listen, the stats are the stats. The resume is the résumé. As a player, Syl is one of the best to ever do it. Top 10, top 5, whatever. I’ll let the people on TV argue about that stuff. (And I hope they do.)

Napheesa Collier | Minnesota Lynx | It’s Time to Give Sylvia Fowles Her Dang Flowers | The Players’ Tribune
Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via AP

But as a person? There is no debate. She is one of one. 

All that’s left is to show our appreciation. 

So thank you for everything, Mama Syl. Thank you for being so funny. Thank you for thinking that I’m actually funny.

Thank you for the good energy you brought to work every single day. Thank you for everything you’ve done for the city of Minneapolis and for the game we all love. Thank you for being a hugger. Thank you for being a friend. 

Thank you for being you, Syl. 

Let’s all stand up and show some love to a legend.