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Icon who’s won back-to-back WNBA championships, MVP awards

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A’ja Wilson undoubtedly claims her place among those names that shine brightest in the world of professional women’s basketball. Her journey through the ranks of the sport has been nothing short of remarkable, marked by dedication, skill, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. In October 2023, Wilson’s Las Vegas Aces accomplished what had not been seen in over two decades. This historic feat established Wilson as one of the greats in the league’s storied history.

So, how did A’ja Wilson begin her basketball career? How did she rise to the top so quickly in the WNBA and dominate the sport? Continue reading this piece to know more about this talented basketballer.

A’ja Wilson biography

A'ja Wilson smiling

A’ja Riyadh Wilson, born on August 8, 1996, is an American professional women’s basketball player, making her mark in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) as a player for the Las Vegas Aces.

Wilson’s unique name carries a special significance. She mentioned on NPR’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” that she was named after her father’s favourite song, “Aja” by the legendary band, Steely Dan. Additionally, her middle name, Riyadh, has roots in the Saudi Arabian capital, where her maternal aunt was stationed during Operation Desert Storm.

Her family background is equally interesting. Wilson’s mother ran a successful court stenographer business, while her father pursued a professional basketball career in Europe, spanning an impressive ten seasons. The Wilson family’s athletic prowess does not stop there – her older brother, Renaldo, also ventured into professional basketball overseas.

She attended Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, a private institution in Columbia, South Carolina. She graduated from high school in 2014. After high school, she pursued higher education at the University of South Carolina, where she majored in mass communications. Not only did she excel academically, but she also made a significant impact on the basketball court, representing the Gamecocks, the college’s basketball team, as a forward. Her dedication and achievements earned her a spot in the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

Off the court, Wilson is also an entrepreneur and an advocate. She founded the Burnt Wax Candle Company and established the A’ja Wilson Foundation, which focuses on preventing bullying and promoting education about dyslexia. Furthermore, she is a member of the WNBA’s social justice council and this demonstrates her commitment to addressing important societal issues.

She co-hosts a podcast, “Tea with A & Phee”, alongside Minnesota Lynx forward, Napheesa Collier. This podcast, produced by Just Women’s Sports, sheds light on the world of the WNBA.

Sponsors have recognised her star power, with Nike and Mountain Dew supporting her. Her remarkable achievements even earned her a place on Forbes’ 2021 “30 Under 30” list.

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A’ja Wilson career

A'ja Wilson happy with her trophy

Wilson’s basketball journey began in high school, where she made a significant impact on the school’s team as early as the eighth grade. Throughout her high school career, Wilson displayed impressive statistics as she averaged 24.7 points, 13.9 rebounds and 4.3 blocks per game. Her performance on the court was nothing short of remarkable, earning her the title of “National High School Player of the Year” in 2014. This achievement was accompanied by the recognition of being a Parade and McDonald’s All-American, as well as the number one rated ESPN HoopGurlz prospect in 2014.

After her stellar high school career, Wilson committed to playing for the University of South Carolina. Her collegiate journey was marked by numerous accolades and awards. She made a significant impact from the very beginning, setting records in her freshman year and earning the prestigious “SEC Freshman of the Year” award.

In 2017, Wilson achieved a career highlight by leading the Gamecocks to their first-ever national championship. Her performance in the championship game earned her the title of Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament.

In 2018, she continued her dominance, claiming all the National Player of the Year awards and securing her third consecutive SEC Player of the Year title. By the time she finished her college career, Wilson had become the all-time leading scorer for the University of South Carolina.

In 2018, Wilson’s professional basketball career began when she was drafted as the first overall pick by the Las Vegas Aces. She did not waste any time making her mark in the WNBA as she scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in her debut game. Throughout her rookie season, she continued to impress and was ultimately named the WNBA “Rookie of the Year”.

Her sophomore season in the league saw her achieve new career highs, including a 39-point game. Despite an ankle injury that briefly sidelined her, Wilson’s performance helped the Aces return to the playoffs after a long absence. However, they fell short in the semi-finals against the eventual 2019 WNBA champions, the Washington Mystics.

The 2020 season brought a new level of success for Wilson and the Aces. Despite challenging circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the absence of star teammate Liz Cambage, Wilson led her team to an impressive 18-4 record and secured the number one seed. She was named the MVP of the season. While they made it to the Finals, they faced a formidable Seattle Storm team and could not secure the championship.

In 2022, Wilson achieved her second MVP award and her first Defensive Player of the Year award, further solidifying her status as one of the league’s top talents. She led the Aces to their second Finals appearance in three seasons and they clinched their first championship.

Moreover, her incredible performance in August 2023, where she scored a remarkable 53 points in a single game, tied the WNBA’s single-game scoring record and solidified her status as one of the league’s brightest stars.

In October 2023, Wilson’s illustrious career reached new heights as she secured her second consecutive WNBA championship. The Las Vegas Aces claimed the title by defeating the New York Liberty in a thrilling series, culminating in a 70-69 victory in Game 4. Wilson’s exceptional contributions throughout the series earned her the prestigious Finals MVP trophy.

During the playoffs, Wilson displayed her exceptional skills as she averaged 23.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.2 assists in nine post-season games. Her dominance on the court was particularly evident in the championship-clinching game, where she recorded 24 points and 16 rebounds.

The Las Vegas Aces made history by becoming the first team in 21 years to secure back-to-back championships. The last team to achieve this feat was the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and 2002. For A’ja Wilson, this victory not only marked her second consecutive championship but also her first WNBA Finals MVP award.

A’ja Wilson Stats

A'ja Wilson playing basketball

Here are some key statistics and accomplishments from Wilson’s basketball career thus far:

High school career:

  • Averaged 24.7 points, 13.9 rebounds, and 4.3 blocks per game in high school.
  • Led Heathwood Hall to a state championship in her senior year.
  • Named the National High School player of the year in 2014.
  • Parade and McDonald’s All-American.
  • Ranked as the #1 rated ESPN HoopGurlz prospect in 2014.

College career (University of South Carolina):

  • She played 37 games in her freshman year.
  • Set multiple single-game and single-season freshman records in the SEC.
  • Won the SEC Freshman of the Year award.
  • In her sophomore year, won her first SEC Player of the Year award and became a consensus All-American.
  • Led the Gamecocks to the SEC regular season and Tournament Championships.
  • In 2017, led the Gamecocks to their first national championship and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament.
  • In 2018, won multiple National Player of the Year awards.
  • Secured a record 3rd straight SEC Player of the Year award.
  • Concluded her college career as the all-time leading scorer for the University of South Carolina.

WNBA Career (Las Vegas Aces):

  • Drafted first overall in 2018.
  • She scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in her debut game.
  • Named the WNBA Rookie of the Year in 2018.
  • Achieved a career-high 39 points in 2019.
  • Played a pivotal role in the Aces’ return to the playoffs in 2019.
  • Named the MVP of the 2020 season.
  • In 2022, won her second MVP and first Defensive Player of the Year award.
  • Led the Aces to their second Finals appearance in three seasons in 2022, securing her first championship.
  • In 2023, won her second consecutive WNBA championship and was awarded the Finals MVP.
  • Averaged 23.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and 1.2 assists in nine postseason games in 2023.

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A’ja Wilson’s net worth

A'ja Wilson drinking from an Ace of Spades bottle

According to reports, Wilson is said to have a net worth of $2 million.

A’ja Wilson family

Wilson’s relationship status reveals that she is not married. However, she is in a relationship with her boyfriend, Josh Cunningham. Their relationship has been reportedly on for five years.

Interestingly, Wilson and Josh Cunningham’s story has a high school twist. They initially attended the same high school, Heathwood Hall Episcopal High School, but it was not until 2018 that they started talking and deepening their connection.

A’ja Wilson age

Wilson was born on August 8, 1996. She is 27 years old as of 2023.

A’ja Wilson Instagram

A’ja Wilson has an active social media presence on Instagram, with 786,000 followers as of the time of writing this article.

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