June 15, 2023 

Inside the Minnesota Lynx’s weekend of reflection and celebration

The team honored its All-25 team and retired Sylvia Fowles jersey

MINNEAPOLIS — If you’re looking for the perfect microcosm for where the Minnesota Lynx are right now as a franchise, look no further than the events that took place last weekend at the Target Center. The weekend featured a two-leg celebration honoring the rich tradition spanning a quarter-century of Lynx basketball. 

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June 9’s festivities included honoring the All-25 Team, the 25 best players to lace up for the Lynx, 19 of whom were in attendance. The famed starting five of Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson, Maya Moore, Sylvia Fowles and Lindsay Whalen were reunited again, with Moore making her anticipated first return to the Target Center since stepping away from the game in 2018. 

The honorees not only included the dynastic core who won four championships in seven seasons, but also Lynx greats from the infantile days of the franchise like current assistant coach Katie Smith, as well as Tonya Edwards, Betty Lennox and more. Two current Minnesota players — Kayla McBride and captain Napheesa Collier — were also honored, book-ending the various iterations of Lynx basketball on the franchise’s silver anniversary.

Each player heard their name and accolades announced before stepping on the court to receive two things: a Lynx All-25 custom suit jacket presented by head coach and president of basketball operations Cheryl Reeve and Glen and Becky Taylor, the only owners the franchise has ever had as well as a soaring ovation from the 8,500 Lynx fans in the building. The festivities were preceded by a 71-69 loss to the Indiana Fever that dropped the Lynx to 1-7.

A healthy contingent of all the legendary figures of Lynx lore were in the house once again on June 11 to celebrate the retirement of Sylvia Fowles’ No. 34 jersey, which joined Whalen’s No. 13, Brunson’s No. 32 and Augustus’s No. 33 in the rafters high above the Target Center floor.

The tears of joy in honor of Fowles were outnumbered only by the number of legendary hugs the center is known for in Minnesota. There were speeches, laughs, memories and also beatboxing. There were more rousing ovations from the Target Center faithful. And at the end of it all, there was Fowles’ No. 34, illuminated in the rafters, immortalizing ‘Sweet Syl’ as one of the best players to ever play in Minnesota.

Before the festivities kicked off, the Lynx earned their first home win of the season in a come-from-behind 91-86 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks. A much-needed sigh of relief for the more than 8,000 Lynx fans in attendance and a much-anticipated reason to dance in front of those fans for a young team that’s already faced a healthy dose of adversity through its first nine games.

It’s hard to pack any more emotions in an approximately 50-hour span of time than the Lynx did. The weekend fulfilled the stated goal of honoring Fowles as well as Minnesota Lynx culture. The on-court product displayed the highs and lows of a young team with talent that still has several mountains to climb to reach the ambitious level of the legends of its past. It was impossible to ignore Reeve’s usual poise and insight in both post-game media availability sessions as she answered both the big-picture perspective questions in regards to her 14 years at the helm and Fowles as well as the short-term, immediate questions about the 2-7 team she’s currently leading.

“It’s crazy when you think about time. It’s crazy,” Reeve said after Friday night’s loss and the All-25 ceremony that followed. “I know for all of you to think about how long you’ve been doing stuff, you just go, go, go all the time. It’s on to the next roster. It’s on to the next thing. So, nights like this, you have that moment where you go, ‘Holy Cow’ … Just go through all the players. I’m thrilled that they made the time to come back and be a part of this. They were thrilled. They felt, just, tremendous about the opportunity to be together and [for us] to honor them in the way that we did.”

19 of the 25 members of the Minnesota Lynx's All-25 team were able to attend the post-game ceremony in person on Friday, June 9 at the Target Center in Minneapolis.
19 of the 25 members of the Minnesota Lynx’s All-25 team were able to attend the post-game ceremony in person on Friday, June 9, 2023 at the Target Center in Minneapolis. (Photo Credit: John McClellan)

After the ceremony concluded, the Target Center lights came back on to signal the show was over and as the Lynx faithful started to file out, an important moment took place on the floor. The current Lynx shared time, space and literally the floor with the 19 members of the Lynx All-25 team in attendance. The achievements of the past met with the potential of the present in real time.

“I know our team really wanted to get a W for them,” Reeve said. “We talked a little bit about the history of our team before the game, what they were going to see and who was watching them, and [we were] just disappointed we couldn’t win for them.”

Honoring ‘Sweet Syl’ against an old foe

Sylvia Fowles addresses the crowd at her jersey retirement ceremony on June 11.
Minnesota Lynx legend Sylvia Fowles salutes the fans during her jersey retirement ceremony on Sunday, June 11, 2023 at the Target Center in Minneapolis. (Photo Credit: John McClellan)

When Sylvia Fowles made her way to Minnesota in 2015, it marked the second leg of the Lynx 2010s dynasty. It also marked the first of four consecutive years where the Lynx met the Los Angeles Sparks in the postseason, after only meeting once in the postseason from 2011-14. As the Sylvia Fowles era started in Minnesota, so too did one of the league’s most intense rivalries. Whether it was intentional or not to retire Fowles’ No. 34 with the Sparks in town doesn’t matter. Either way, it’s poetic.

“Man, you just think about the grittiness of what we had as a rivalry between those teams,” Fowles said during her pregame media availability on Sunday. “It makes you appreciate basketball a little more. I think we had a special time during that time with L.A. in those series, and that’s something I’ll never forget.”

There may have been less on the line in Sunday’s regular-season matchup between the teams than there was in the 14 playoff meetings between 2015-18 (a 7-7 split), but after Friday night’s disappointment, a win Sunday night felt essential for Minnesota to consider the weekend a true success.

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Playing in front of Fowles, several members of the All-25 team and a ravenous Lynx crowd donning the “Sweet Syl” headbands distributed before the game, Minnesota was able to capture the win and head into the postgame festivities on a victorious note, but it did not come easily.

After three-and-a-half quarters of a back-and-forth battle, the Sparks built an 83-72 lead with 3:38 remaining in the game and it felt like another tough loss was the inevitable result. Until it wasn’t. “We just had that mindset to not let it have the same outcome as the previous game,” Lynx guard Tiffany Mitchell said after the game. “I think our belief was coming together. Our huddles were a lot tighter. We were looking each other right in the eyes, you can tell [we] felt that connection to not let this one slip away.”

A late Lynx charge powered by a bench-heavy unit featuring Rachel Banham, Nikolina Milić and two clutch threes by Bridget Carleton ended the game with a 19-3 Minnesota run. The win marked the first regular season win on the Target Center floor this season and ensured there’d be no losing vibes casting a shadow over Fowles’ special night.

“That was quite the finish,” Reeve said following the win. “We took the 20-second after Lexie [Brown] hit that three. I appreciated the demeanor in the timeout, Phee’s leadership and then our bench. Rachel got us going, [got] the crowd back into it, [Nikolina Milić too], so their play was exceptional. [19-3] run to finish, to get us into the 90s, I’m super excited about that. We haven’t seen that to this point with our team.”

Sunday night’s on-court postgame festivities mirrored Friday night’s in several ways, but the omnipresent glow only winning can provide was an undeniable difference as one of the most beloved players to ever suit up for the Lynx was enshrined in the franchise’s most exclusive club. The dream combination Lynx fans had in mind as they circled this game on the calendar the moment the schedule was released.

“I told myself this is going to be a happy day,” Fowles said before the game. “So hopefully we can continue the journey of being happy and enjoying it … Minnesota is home for me, and I say that a lot. They welcomed me with open arms and that’s something you can’t just forget. I don’t plan on retiring and going away. I plan on being as active as much as possible and for years to come. I do plan on having a family, so for my kids to be able to see that my jersey has been retired and that I’ve done something great in the state of Minnesota, that means a lot as well.”

Written by Terry Horstman

Terry Horstman is a Minneapolis-based writer and covers the Minnesota Lynx beat for The Next. He previously wrote about the Minnesota Timberwolves for A Wolf Among Wolves, and his other basketball writing has been published by Flagrant Magazine, HeadFake Hoops, Taco Bell Quarterly, and others. He's the creative nonfiction editor for the sports-themed literary magazine, the Under Review.

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