'One of the most beloved WNBA players of all time': Sylvia Fowles named sportsmanship award winner in final season

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Even though Minnesota Lynx star Sylvia Fowles has played the final minutes of an illustrious 15-year career, the accolades keep stacking up.

Fowles was named the 2022 Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award winner for the first time in her career, the WNBA announced Friday. She received 36 votes from a panel of 56 national sportswriters and broadcasters. Seattle Storm guard Briann January, who also announced she will retire this offseason, came in second with eight votes.

The award is presented to a player who exemplifies the ideals of sportsmanship on the court, including ethical behavior, fair play and integrity. It is named for the late Kim Perrot, the Houston Comets star who helped them win their first two championships in the league's first and second seasons. She died in August 1999 after a seven-month fight with cancer.

“Syl is such a worthy recipient of the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award as she is one of the most beloved WNBA players of all time,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said in a team release. “Through her unwavering humility, kindness, and class, she truly has been an inspiration to teammates, coaches, staff, opposing players, fans and community members. Her on and off court legacy will forever live on throughout our league.”

Fowles is known widely as "Mama Syl" or "Sweet Syl." Peers around the league credit her for taking them under her wing and giving them pointers, even if they were opponents. In the final weeks of her playing career, she gifted teammates and coaches hand-knit gifts and gave out succulents. The team sent out a succulent in her name to voters for a Defensive Player of the Year campaign. She has already won four, including last season.

Indiana Fever guard Kelsey Mitchell received three votes. Los Angeles Sparks forward and WNBA Players Association president Nneka Ogwumike, a three-time winner, also received three votes. Alysha Clark (Mystics, two votes), Shey Peddy (Mercury, two), Allisha Gray (Wings, one) and A'ja Wilson (Aces, one) also received media votes.

Each team nominated one player to the ballot and media members voted for one each. Aari McDonald (Dream), Kahleah Copper (Sky), Courtney Williams (Sun) and Sami Whitcomb (Liberty) were also nominated by their teams.

Fowles, 36, played her final game Sunday when the Lynx missed the playoffs after a year in which they struggled with injuries, roster turnover and missing pieces. She led the league in rebounds again this season (9.8 rpg) and is the league's all-time career leader in rebounds (4,007). The two-time WNBA champion and two-time Finals MVP holds the franchise record in rebounds for the Lynx and Sky, who drafted her No. 2 in 2008 after Candace Parker went No. 1 to the Sparks.

She has always been active in her communities and in honor of her final season, the Lynx celebrated with "Syl's Final Ride" for her love of bike rides.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Sylvia Fowles #34 of the Minnesota Lynx (R) and Sue Bird #10 of the Seattle Storm embrace after the game at Target Center on August 12, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Both Bird and Fowles are retiring at the end of the season. The Storm defeated the Lynx 96-69. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Sylvia Fowles #34 of the Minnesota Lynx (R) and Sue Bird #10 of the Seattle Storm embrace after the game at Target Center on August 12, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Both Bird and Fowles are retiring at the end of the season. The Storm defeated the Lynx 96-69. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)