Sylvia Fowles Wants to See Who She Can Be Without Basketball

It’s kind of funny to Sylvia Fowles that everyone is on the same page about what she should do with her life now that she has retired from the W.N.B.A.

Everyone, that is, except for her.

“Basketball is definitely done,” she said Friday, five days after her final game with the Minnesota Lynx and, she insisted, the final game of her 15-year W.N.B.A. career.

She doesn’t want to play again. “This is it,” she said, adding that 2022 was “by far the hardest season injury wise,” though she did not say much about it publicly.

And she doesn’t want to coach. It’s “a hard hell no for me,” she laughed.

The idea of going into broadcasting earned a “we’ll see” from the 36-year-old Fowles.

But though she said “everybody” wanted her to stick around basketball, she needed a break.

“I definitely can say I don’t see basketball playing a huge part in my life right about now,” she said. “I just want to step away and debrief a little bit because this is something that I’ve been doing for so long.

“And if I miss it, then I’ll come back.”

The game seems certain to miss her. As Fowles said, she “gave this sport everything.”

The W.N.B.A. announced Friday that she had won the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award, for “ethical behavior, fair play and integrity.” It was her first time being selected, by a panel of writers and broadcasters, but she has had a career full of other honors.

Fowles blocking a shot from Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas during what she said would be the final game of her W.N.B.A. career, on Aug. 14.Credit…Sean D. Elliot/The Day, via Associated Press

“Just dominant,” Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird said of Fowles. “I think everybody uses that word when they talk about Syl. Just dominant, dominant play.”

Fowles is the W.N.B.A.’s career leader in rebounds (4,006) and field-goal percentage (59.9 percent), and she is in the top five for career blocks and field goals made. She even led the league in rebounds per game for the 2022 season.

Fowles said she played through pain because she wanted to fulfill her commitment to the Lynx in her final season. She announced in February that this year would be her last, and it turned into a monthslong celebration of her career. Bird, who also said this would be her last season, spoke highly of Fowles.

“When I think of Syl, she’s the type of player you have to game plan around,” she said. “And what’s tough about players who rebound the way that she does — how do you really stop a rebounder?”

She continued: “Especially someone who is as physical and strong as she is. It’s not as simple as, ‘Oh, hey. Box Syl out.’ That’s probably not going to happen.”

Fowles was named the league’s defensive player of the year four times, including last season. She won two championships with the Lynx, in 2015 and 2017, and was named the most valuable player of the finals both times. She won the league’s M.V.P. award in 2017 and has four Olympic gold medals.

After having her name attached to those kinds of accolades for so long, Fowles said she was ready to find out what else she likes to do. She has spoken about her interest in becoming a funeral director.

“I’m curious to see what I am without basketball,” she said. “I’m eager to see this new person.”

But while she plans to travel and visit friends and family, she said she was not sure how to find herself beyond basketball.

“I think a lot of it is just stepping away and trying to figure out how smooth can I be without it,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a lot of trial and error. But I honestly can’t tell you what that looks like.”

Jonathan Abrams contributed reporting.

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