Souhan: Here’s to Sylvia Fowles, one of the greats amid a great era

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In the United States, there is a national pizza week, and a frozen yogurt week. There is a salad week and a waffle week and a split pea soup week.

I am hereby declaring this toast week, because it is time to raise a glass to the women athletes of Minnesota, and to remember that one particular athlete has been deserving of such a tribute for a long time.

Over the weekend Hopkins alum Paige Bueckers and former Lynx star Maya Moore won awards at the ESPYs. Bueckers took the opportunity to advocate on behalf of Black women and Moore is continuing to work on the kind of justice reform that freed the man who is now her husband from a Missouri jail.

Minnesota will be well-represented by women with state ties at the Tokyo Olympics. Suni Lee may be the second-best gymnast on the planet, and if Simone Biles isn't quite herself, that might be a conservative estimate. Grace McCallum's ascension means that two of the four members of the U.S. women's gymnastic team are from Minnesota.

Regan Smith could become a worldwide star. Kyra Condie will compete in sport climbing, Lara Dallman-Weis in sailing, Jordan Thompson in women's volleyball and Alise (Post) Willoughby in BMX racing.

And, of course, the Minnesota Lynx are sending three people for Team USA: Napheesa Collier, Sylvia Fowles and coach Cheryl Reeve, who will assist head coach Dawn Staley. Two other Lynx players, Bridget Carleton and Natalie Achonwa, will play for Canada.

When the Lynx were winning championships, Lindsay Whalen was the home-state hero, Maya Moore was the world's most spectacular player, Seimone Augustus was the franchise's original star and Rebekkah Brunson was on her way to becoming the most prolific rebounder in WNBA history.

Fowles arrived via trade and helped win the last two of the Lynx's four titles.

Somehow, during her Lynx tenure and even now as she prepares to win another Olympic gold medal, Fowles became the least-appreciated great athlete in Minnesota history.

Maybe it's because she arrived after the Lynx had won two titles. Maybe it's because she doesn't seek attention, and her game is built on power and fundamentals. She's not going to hit any running three-pointers or throw any behind-the-back passes.

Maybe it's because, at age 35, logic dictated her slowing down at this point in her career.

Whatever our excuses, most Minnesotans seem likely to forget that we are watching — or watching too rarely — one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

Reeve thinks Fowles is the best center in WNBA history. Fowles passed Brunson to become the league's all-time leading rebounder. She just moved to 14th on the all-time scoring list. She may be the best defender in the league right now, and she plays for a team that has a seven-game winning streak, the longest current streak in American professional sports.

She is headed to the All-Star Game in Las Vegas, then to Tokyo, and there is another place she should be seen:

On your television.

On Sunday night, the league's hottest team, a team with a championship pedigree and a future Hall of Fame coach, played in the large market of Los Angeles against a traditional rival on the last night of WNBA play before the All-Star break.

The game did not appear on national television or in many highlight packages.

For the next few weeks, we will celebrate the world's greatest athletes and pay particular attention to women. No matter how many other sports are added to the Summer Olympics, these games are highlighted by track, gymnastics, basketball and swimming, sports in which women have no trouble creating massive ratings.

The WNBA and other women's sports have proved in the last few years that if you televise their games, their ratings will increase, and they will compete well with traditional men's sports. And yet, somehow, Fowles and the Lynx were shut out on Sunday night.

As Fowles heads to another WNBA All-Star Game and another Olympics, this is a good week to remember that one of the best players in basketball history plays regularly at Target Center, if not always on TV.

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