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A’ja Wilson has a number of goals she wants to achieve during her career, and you may soon be able to point out that she’s named among the WNBA all-time greats on the list at just 26 years old.
The 2022 WNBA MVP has essentially been reduced to Las Vegas star ace and Seattle Storm’s Brenna Stewart. The victor will join Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoops, Lisa Leslie, Lauren Jackson, Candice Parker and Elena Delle Donne are the only players in league history to have won the award multiple times.
“Just being on a list with them is an honor in itself,” Wilson told Bleacher Report. “Obviously that means the world win it, but at the same time I want a championship as well. There are a lot of things that I would still like to take off that list. But winning another Player of the Year award would be a blessing for me for sure and it is certainly an honor that I will be among the greats of our game.”
Wilson already has the 2020 Player of the Year award and four All-Star picks on her resume as she continues to exceed the already high expectations that existed when the Aces took her with the #1 pick for the 2018 WNBA Draft.
The 2022 campaign was another excellent campaign for her, averaging 19.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.9 pieces and 1.4 steals per game while shooting 50.1% from field and 37.3% from depth while expanding her offensive offense beyond the points line. The three. For the first time in her career.
While Stewart also impressed with an average of 21.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game, the league’s top-seeded Wilson finished at 26-10.
Seattle is seeded No. 4 at 22-14.
“It was very important for us because of the season we’ve been through, adversity hitting us a little bit halfway,” Wilson said of his first place in the standings. “Everyone was saying ‘they peaked early’ and all that. It’s so cool to finish as the number one even though it doesn’t really mean much because it could be a match for anyone on any day. But it’s really cool to know that that’s A very historic season for us, and we had a lot of fun doing it.”
Las Vegas started 9-1 and then finalized the regular season with a four-game winning streak that included Sunday’s win over the top-seeded Storm.
Kelsey Plum went into possession mode with seven points in the last minute, and Wilson stuffed the stat sheet with 25 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals and one block. It was a proper performance and seeing how they are had become The first teammates in WNBA history to each score more than 700 points in the same season.
With a dominant duo up front and a supporting cast featuring Jackie Young and Chelsea Gray, who scored 33 points in the win over Seattle, the Aces are in championship or statuette mode even though All-Star Derica Hamby exited by a wide margin. knee injury.
“People have been putting that on me since a junior year” when discussing tournament expectations, Wilson said, but the Aces are close to appearing in the 2020 WNBA Finals and semi-finals in 2019 and 2021.
Perhaps having Becky Hammon on the sidelines will change their fortunes in the playoffs this time around given that she led them to the best record in the league in just her first season as head coach.
“Playing under Becky has been so much fun,” Wilson said. “You can tell if her knee was a little better, she’d want to be with us too. She loves the game so much, and her basketball intelligence is out of this world.”
While Las Vegas hired Hamon prior to the 2022 campaign, she was already a franchise legend with her retired jersey after playing an All-Star six times eight of her 16 seasons in the WNBA for the San Antonio Silver Stars, who later became the Aces. .
Hammon came to Las Vegas with plenty of coaching experience after eight seasons as an assistant for the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA. she was Leading Possession That made her become the first woman to serve as a full-time assistant in the NBA, the first to serve as a head coach in the Summer League, the first to be part of an All-Star Game coaching staff and the first to become an acting president. Coach in a game after Gregg Popovich was sent off.
However, Hammon’s ability to connect with her players was perhaps what stood out most for Wilson during their first season together.
“I think the biggest surprise for me is honestly how amazing she is,” said the MVP nominee. “I’ve seen her with Tottenham and she’s really cool, but now she’s playing underneath, she’s so funny. She just wants to have fun and always joke around. That’s what we love about her the most. She can relate to us because she’s sat in that locker room before, and she knows how it feels. In timeout during a clutch game.”
Hammon is notorious for breaking barriers, something Wilson does off the court as the first female athlete to sign a deal with Raffles.
The new official WNBA bracket has added it to its list of athletes that includes LeBron James, Jason Tatum and Anthony Davis.
“It means a lot to be the first female athlete to sign because I know I’m the first but I won’t be the last,” she said. “Just being a springboard there is unbelievable. And because I now know it’s the official slide for W, it feels like a collision of worlds. I treat it like it’s a snack addict’s dream, but honestly it is. I grew up on, everyone knows ruffles and has been on Everyone get it.”
Image source: Ruffles
Wilson’s partnership includes its own signature flavor of Ruffles Ridge Twists Smoky BBQ, inspired by where it belongs.
“It was so much fun to finally see a smoky barbecue with my face on a sack,” she said. “And of course, the South Carolina roots I have. Barbecue is always good in the South, especially in South Carolina. So just knowing that and how it’s a twist and not your average potato chip, it’s something special because it’s different.”
The difference is also one way to describe the new WNBA playoff format, in which all eight teams play in the first round six seasons after the first two seeded bids farewell from the singles elimination opener.
This year’s first round will be a top-three series with the top seed hosting the first two games, meaning Wilson and the top seed may have to play a crucial 3-series match against eighth-seeded Phoenix Mercury on the road.
While Las Vegas will likely be without Hamby in the first round at least, Mercury has dealt with adversity all season and far from the list that eliminated the Aces in the semifinals last season.
as such ESPN In detail, Britney Grenier has been imprisoned in Russia since February, Tina Charles left the team in June, Diana Torassi was sidelined due to a quad injury and Skylar Diggins Smith left the team for personal reasons.
Given this reality, the Aces are expected to advance against the team they went against 3-0 during the regular season.
However, Wilson said they should focus indoors when the series begins on Wednesday.
“The most important thing is that we can be who we are and be honest with us,” she said. “Now is the time when you really need to maintain who you are as a team and your true identity. That’s the beauty of it. We can look back and say ‘we wish we had this,’ and they could say ‘we wish we had that,'” but at the end of the day it’s on us Just to get together and when the ball goes up, we play our game.”
If the Aces do that, Wilson might be able to check the WNBA champion off their roster as well.