The 2022 WNBA season is already playing out with a multitude of storylines. Among them are the Phoenix Mercury and Los Angeles Sparks who, on paper, appear to have assembled superteams having their fair share of struggles.
Another is Becky Hammon having a Coach of the Year-worthy season in her first season at the helm with the Las Vegas Aces and another being the Indiana Fever once again looking like WNBA cellar-dwellers.
But among the litany of storylines already playing out with the 2022 season is what is happening with two of the WNBA’s all-time greats. Those would be the Seattle Storm’s Sue Bird and the Minnesota Lynx’s Sylvia Fowles.
Both are retiring after this season – and both are worthy of their farewell tours and flowers.
But one cannot notice that it has appeared that there has been more of a lens on Bird’s farewell tour than there has been Sweet Syl’s.
When Bird and her Storm arrived in Brooklyn to take on the New York Liberty, Libs players wore custom-made shirts that said “Thank You Sue, Love New York” inscribed in the team’s signature seafoam tint. Bird is, of course, a native of Long Island and given how deep the pockets of the Liberty’s owners are, the team could certainly afford to go all out for a Bird farewell.
And of course … there was that 3-point shot Bird drained at the end of the game.
She also received love when her team visited the Atlanta Dream recently.
Also recently, Fowles was recognized when the Lynx were in Chicago to take on the Sky. For the early portions of her career, Fowles wore Skytown blue and yellow before eventually sporting the darker shade of blue in her career as a Lynx.
This week is also the week where Wintrust Arena will also play host to this year’s All-Star Game. Fowles was named one of the starters and was involved in a trade at the recently completed All-Star draft.
Team (A’ja) Wilson traded her co-captain (Bird) for the co-captain of Team (Breanna Stewart) in Fowles. Meaning the two teams that will be represented at the All-Star Game in Chicago will be Team Wilson-Fowles and Team Stewart-Bird.
And as much as Bird is more than deserving of her flowers, so is Fowles and the media coverage needs to reflect this reality.
Let us not forget that Fowles is a two-time WNBA champion with the Lynx teams of 2015 and 2017. Both seasons, she was named Finals MVP. Let us also not forget that she is a former WNBA MVP – from the 2017 season. In addition, Fowles has won four Olympic gold medals – her most recent occurring at last year’s Olympics in Tokyo.
In 2020 in the bubble, Fowles surpassed her Minnesota teammate Rebekkah Brunson to become the WNBA’s all-time leader in rebounds. When she takes the court in Chicago at All-Star, it will be her eighth All-Star appearance. One of those occurred at Target Center in Minnesota when the Lynx hosted the 2018 rendition.
Last year when the WNBA celebrated its 25th season Fowles was on the list of the 25 greatest – as was Bird. When UConn’s Paige Bueckers spoke at last year’s ESPYs imploring the media to give greater recognition to the accomplishments of Black women within sports, one cannot help but think of how that speech can be seen as directly opposite of how Bird and Fowles have been covered in their final seasons in the WNBA.
Fowles was, of course, an all-time great at the college level too. When she was rising up Florida’s high school ranks, plenty of schools were hoping she would arrive on their campuses to wear their colors. Instead – she chose the purple and gold of LSU.
During her tenure as an LSU Tiger, she played alongside Seimone Augustus – who eventually became one of her teammates with the Lynx. LSU was one of the nation’s signature women’s college basketball programs during Fowles’ time there as she led the Tigers to the Final Four all four seasons she was in Baton Rouge before being drafted first overall by the Sky in the 2008 draft.
Fowles’ jersey was retired at LSU as was Augustus’ and it is safe to say that no Lynx will ever wear No. 34 following the 2022 WNBA season. Some dark corners of the WNBA fandom may perceive pieces like this to be anti-Bird, but even Bird herself would not see it that way. Fowles is an all-time great and it is simply a foul indictment on some in the WNBA family to downplay her accomplishments and career simply because of the audacity of melanin.