Free agent Sylvia Fowles returns 'home' to Lynx for 15th and final WNBA season

Two-time WNBA champion Sylvia Fowles will return "home" to the Minnesota Lynx for her 15th WNBA season in 2022, she announced on Instagram in late January. And it will be her final season in the league before retiring, she and the Lynx announced on the first signing day of free agency.

The team released a stirring tribute video shared and celebrated by teammates, peers and fans.

Details of a contract have not been reported. Players could not sign deals until Tuesday. The Lynx have reportedly added veteran guard Angel McCoughtry, who won Olympic golds with Fowles, and re-signed veteran point guard Layshia Clarendon.

The Lynx opened free agency with $432,198 in available salary cap space, per Her Hoop Stats, and unrestricted free agents, Fowles, Clarendon and Rachel Banham. Fowles could bump up to a max or supermax contract in the $200,000 range from her $117,000 salary in 2021. She signed a three-year deal ahead of the 2019 season and before the new collective bargaining agreement of 2020 raised salaries.

Fowles considered retirement

Fowles is coming off her fourth Defensive Player of the Year award and is an unrestricted free agent. The 6-foot-6 center remained uncertain about her future following the No. 3 seeded Lynx's disappointing loss in the second round of the playoffs. She called her future "still un-bright" and "unsure," adding she still had things to talk about with general manager and head coach Cheryl Reeve.

Fowles, 36, won two WNBA championships with the Lynx in 2015 and 2017 and was named Finals MVP of both. She was also named the league MVP in 2017 having averaged 18.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. She shot a career-high 65.5% and added 2.0 blocks, 1.5 assists and 1.3 steals per game.

She is the last core player who was part of the Lynx dynasty run in the early 2010s. Fowles is the WNBA's career leader in rebounds (3,712) and holds the best career field goal percentage (59.7%). In recent seasons she's become "Mama Syl" and led a younger group that includes franchise centerpiece and MVP candidate Napheesa Collier. Collier will likely miss the beginning of the 2022 season after the birth of her first daughter in the spring.

Fowles averaged 15.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.2 steals per game over her career and averaged a double-double in seven seasons.

Fowles' Hall of Fame career

Sylvia Fowles
Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles (34), Connecticut Sun forward Brionna Jones (42) and Minnesota Lynx forward Napheesa Collier (24) during an August game. (Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Fowles began her career with the Chicago Sky as the No. 2 pick overall pick out of LSU behind Candace Parker. In seven seasons she was named to three All-Star teams, won two Defensive Player of the Year awards and led the team in win shares from 2010-13. After the Sky reached the 2014 WNBA Finals, Fowles forced a trade to Minnesota.

The Lynx were in the middle of their dynasty run, having won titles in 2011 and 2013 with Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson, Lindsey Whalen and Maya Moore. Fowles helped them win two more and stayed as Whalen (retired after 2018 season), Moore (stepped away after '18), Brunson (retired after 2019) and Augustus (signed with Sparks after 2019) all made their next moves.

Augustus has since retired, joining the Sparks coaching staff for the 2021 season. And Moore remains away from the team, but has not acknowledged retirement.

Fowles, named to four All-Star teams with Minnesota, ranks fourth in career blocks (685), 13th in career points (5,983) and 25th in steals (459).

She won three Turkish Cups, two Europe SuperCups and two EuroLeague championships while playing overseas. The former LSU superstar was the SEC Player of the Year her senior season and had her jersey retired at the school in 2017.

Representing the United States, she's won four gold medals with Team USA dating back to the 2008 Beijing Games.