I first encountered Sylvia Fowles, face of the WNBA Chicago Sky, roughly one year ago. An individual in her circle was kind enough to hook me up with tickets to a home game, since this was before I began covering the team, and asked if I would like to meet her afterwards.
I really didn’t know what to expect. I had seen Fowles play on several different occasions and my impression of her was based solely on these experiences. Anyone that has witnessed her in action will tell you that in between those white lines, “Big Syl” is a beast. Strictly business. No jokes, no smiles, no nonsense. To top things off, the Sky lost the game on this particular night and were struggling on the season as a whole. Naturally, I assumed she may be a little irritable, or at least somber.
My assumption couldn’t have been further from the truth as Fowles emerged from the locker room cheesing; happy to see her friends, which included a small child that had been ill and her mother. Once introduced, there were no polite handshakes and methodical “hellos”. Fowles gave hugs to everyone in the room, talked some trash and cracked some jokes. I remember thinking, “This is the warmest, most approachable athlete I have ever met.” And to date, this remains true.
Now, one year later, I ask Fowles whether or not she recalls this meeting. I really didn’t expect her to, because surely she has been introduced to a plethora of random individuals since then. Smiling, she reluctantly replied, “No, I don’t. Sorry.” I tell her that it’s nice to see her again, regardless. “Nice to see you again as well.”
Fowles has endured a great deal during her year three-year tenure with the Sky. From season-shortening injuries, to coaching and personnel changes, to the monkey on the back of the franchise that is having never made the post-season; the road has been far from easy. Yet, here she is, still rolling.
Now healthy, and with reputable coach Pokey Chatman running the show, the team not coincidentally finds itself sustaining a record around .500, in position to make the playoffs. And Fowles finds herself a legitimate MVP candidate, leading the league with 20 PPG half-way through the season. Despite this accomplishment, she made the all-star team, but was not voted to start.
When asked if that will put a little chip on her shoulder, “I hope”, was coach Chatman’s response. “But, you know, she (Fowles) has enough things to have a chip on her shoulder (about). I think they understand what the all-star game represents. It’s for the fans. (There are) other things to lean on. Sylvia has a gold medal, and all that good stuff. So, she understands the process of things.”
In addition to leading the WNBA in scoring, Fowles is third in rebounds per game with 9.9 and first in blocks, averaging 2.6 per contest. Hence, the Most Valuable Player rumblings; as she is obviously playing very well.
“I’ll give myself that. I think I’m playing very well this season”, said Fowles. “But a lot of credit has to go to me just being healthy, and then my teammates. I try not to get involved in that (MVP talk), but to let you all know, I do hear it and I am aware of it.” (laughs)
Win or lose, you can often catch the center hi-fiving her adoring fans after the game. And although visibly frustrated at times, she still manages to carry herself with an infectious sincerity and welcoming persona. A genuineness that is rare among professional athletes. Once you have met Sylvia Fowles, you can never root against her. Once you have seen her play, you’d be foolish to count her out.
As Fowles goes, so do the Chicago Sky. Assuming that the team continues or improves upon its current pace, and makes the WNBA Playoffs for the first time, one would be hard pressed to find a player more deserving of MVP honors. If the award considers who may be the most valuable person to her team, there should be little doubt that Fowles fits the criteria. If we are going to base the award exclusively on basketball skills and impact, there should be even less. —Examiner.com