She has been beaten and bloodied. Literally. Lynx center Sylvia Fowles has had her nose broken once, had it bloodied a handful more times. She has been elbowed, pushed and shoved in the post, attracting crowds like a carnival barker.
But she hasn’t been stopped.
“We’ve seen tears, we’ve seen blood, we’ve seen everything,” Seimone Augustus said. “And all she does is come back stronger. That says a lot.”
Here’s saying more: Fowles was named the league’s 2017 MVP before tipoff of Game 2 of Minnesota’s WNBA semifinal series at Williams Arena.
After posing with the trophy following comments by league President Lisa Border, Fowles went to the podium. And the tears she vowed not to shed came.
“I said I wasn’t going to cry,” she started. “But it’s a proud moment.”
Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve and assistant coach James Wade — who has spent countless hours working with Fowles this season — sat in the front row, wiping their eyes as well.
Fowles thanked her coaches. Her teammates. Her old college, everyone.
She got 35 of a possible 40 first-place votes, finishing ahead of New York’s Tina Charles (three first-place votes) and Los Angeles’ Candace Parker (two). She is the second Lynx player to win the award, following Maya Moore (2014).
Fowles tied for the league lead with 20 double-doubles. She led the league in shooting percentage (65.5 percent), was fifth in scoring (18.8) and second in both rebounding (10.4) and blocks (2.0).
She was the best player on the team that finished with the best record in the league (27-7).
Fowles is well aware of how special this is. This is something she has worked for — and waited for.
She spent the first seven seasons in the league with Chicago. But Fowles sat out the first half of the 2015 season trying to force a trade to the Lynx, the team she felt would make her the best player she could be. She succeeded, coming to Minnesota after the All-Star Game. That fall she was the Finals MVP.
But it was after last season ended that Lynx coach Reeve asked for more. She told Fowles it was time to go from very, very good to dominant.
“That was the moment I was waiting for,” Fowles said. “Someone telling me what I needed to do, and I needed to do to step up.”
What followed was months of extra work with teammates and endless sessions with Wade, who donned pads and banged on Fowles in one-on-one drills.
What pushed Fowles to tears Thursday was the realization that much of what she’d hoped for had happened.
“You have a vision of what you want,” she said, “and you want things to play out. But to actually get to this place you were demanding to be, to sit out and take that ride for half the summer, to get here and have everything play out like you had it in your head? That just doesn’t happen. It doesn’t happen.”
Well, sometimes it does.
“I coached against her, I coached her in USA Basketball,” Washington coach Mike Thibault said. “Sylvia has reached her full potential.”
A three-time defensive player of the year, named once again to the first all-defensive team this week, Fowles has won a lot of things. This just adds to the list.
“It’s incredibly gratifying,” Reeve said. “She’s an incredibly unselfish person at heart. We had to kind of ask her to be selfish at times. To remain aggressive. She’s always known she had it in her. And that’s why she came here, to get to this place.”
It took time, blood and sweat. And, Thursday afternoon, tears. She has improved her footwork, her game. Perhaps most important, her mind-set.
“All the pain is worth it,” Fowles said.