While many of her neighbors in Cutler Bay were dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, a teary-eyed Sylvia Fowles was in Minneapolis, accepting the WNBA’s Most Valuable Player trophy and preparing for Thursday night’s semifinal game against the Washington Mystics.
Fowles, who grew up in Liberty City and plays center for the Minnesota Lynx, was the overwhelming favorite for the award after averaging 18.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game. A 10-year league veteran, Fowles is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, but had never won the MVP until this season.
“It’s just a proud moment,” Fowles said. “Ten years of hard work got me to this point.”
Fowles credited her coach Cheryl Reeve, saying “she’s the one who pushed me to this point.”
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She received 35 of 40 first-place votes from a national panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. New York Liberty forward Tina Charles finished second and Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker was third. Fowles, 31, was also named AP Player of the Year a few weeks ago, and she signed a contract extension with the Lynx a few weeks ago. Her No. 34 jersey will be retired by LSU this season.
Fowles, who is 6-6, led the league in field goal accuracy (.655, the fourth-best in league history), was fifth in scoring (18.9) and second in both rebounding (10.4) and blocks (2.0).
Reeve told ESPN.com, "She's just been physically dominant. And she's been mentally engaged game in and game out. And the thing I love about Syl is she's learned from every one of her challenges, and added that to her information bank."
The three-time Olympic gold medalist won three high school state titles, two with Miami Edison and one with Gulliver Prep. She was the No. 2 pick in the 2008 draft.
Although she is known for her physicality in the paint, she enjoys solitude and peace away from the court. She loves to cook, sew, knit, and aspires to be a funeral director when her playing days are over. Fowles is studying mortuary science online, and has taken courses in cremation and embalming.
“It is relaxing for me,” she told the New York Times in a recent story. “A lot people find it weird, but that’s another place where I get my happy time. Any time I can be alone to not think about the sports world, that’s very important time. That’s when I grow a lot, to think about myself and others.”
Fowles plays in China for Beijing Great Wall in the winters, so she doesn’t spend much time in Miami anymore. When she does make it home, she spoils her nieces and nephews and visits the kids on her charity AAU team, Team Fowles.
She said: “I want those kids in Miami to know that anything is possible, you can make it from Miami to the pros if you follow the right path.”