WNBA Superstar: From the hardcourt to the prep room

It isn’t very often when you hear of a bona-fide superstar in their athletic field that just can’t seem to wait for the next chapter of their life to start.  However, that is where WNBA superstar Sylvia Fowles finds herself as she has counted down the last weeks and days of her 15-year WNBA career.  Fowles has earned the 2017 MVP award for the WNBA, been an 8-time All-Star, and in her off time has found the time to represent the United States and earn 4 Olympic Gold Medals. . . . . and the career she is heading to . . . is as a mortician.

Author Kevin Van Valkenburg wrote in this recent piece for ESPN that “She likes to contemplate the future, and the unknown. It’s much more interesting to her than the past. . . . .It becomes clear she would rather delve into … just about anything else. Including (but not limited to) her love of knitting, of plants, her road to understanding her own mental health, and her future career as a mortician. Yes, mortician.”

“My life is not basketball,” Fowles says in the article. “It’s just something I do.”

Fowles, age 36 and a native of Miami, has been working on and off since 2017 during the off-season in the death care business and says she has two positions lined up for employment in Florida once here basketball career is over.  Here are some of her thoughts from the ESPN article:

  • “I’ve been fascinated with death as far back as I can remember.  Even as a kid, I was curious about it. Where do we go when we leave here? When you die, what happens to you? Americans don’t talk about it enough. When I go to Europe and play, everyone has plans set in place [for when they die]. It’s so open. I just want to be an advocate for it.”
  • As Fowles grew older, and basketball became a vehicle to travel the world, her fascination with death remained. Her time in Turkey (2010-2013) helped crystallize some of her feelings that Americans didn’t view death in a healthy way. “I just found it fascinating how they still do things a lot like they did in medieval times,” Fowles says. “They pretty much just wash the body. Their caskets don’t have metal. They just wrap the body. I just thought that was the most simple thing. Why do we go to such extreme measures? Their sermons are more like a celebration. It’s not people crying and mourning. It’s more like ‘We’re going to a better place.'”
  • When asked about her own funeral, Fowles responded, “Definitely a celebration.  A little dancing, a little singing. I want people to have a good time. I don’t want it to be sad.”

Fowles concluded her career last Sunday when her team, the Minnesota Lynx, lost and missed qualifying for this year’s WNBA playoffs.  During her last game, Fowles collected her 4,000 rebound while playing in the WNBA making her the only WNBA player to ever reach 4,000 rebounds in a career.

RelatedHere is an interesting Sports Illustrated article from 2019 entitled, “How Sylvia Fowles balances being a Lynx star and a second life dealing with Death“.  Interesting in this article to me was the fact that Ms. Fowles did her prep room school embalming training as a trainee at a colleague’s funeral home in my home town.  She would drive 140 miles each way on her “off days” to learn the craft from a mortician who had a basketball connection with her.

Related — For those of you who are basketball fans, here are the career stats for Sylvia Fowles.

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