Why A'ja Wilson Is the New Face for the WNBA

This No. 1 pick can do it all, and superhuman pressure ain’t stopping a double threat. Part of the B/R POWER 50 Level Up list.
photo of Natalie WeinerNatalie Weiner@natalieweinerStaff WriterJuly 23, 2018

Oh, the Places You'll Go, by Dr. Seuss, may be a traditional graduation gift—but the answers it proposes aren't all that helpful for A'ja Wilson.

On her college graduation day in May, she learned about one place she will wind up: outside South Carolina's Colonial Life Arena, cast in bronze. Yes, they're building a statue of the WNBA All-Star power forward on campus, and they may even build another one outside the South Carolina State House, which stands in the center of Wilson's native Columbia, South Carolina. When we talk about power in 2018, we're talking about Twitter followings and viral moments more often than we are actual, physical monuments—but Wilson, as the meme goes, is a girl who can do both.

"Last name ever, first name greatest," cried the Post and Courier, quoting Drake to try to sum up her impact. It's a challenge: Attempting to list Wilson's career accolades is more or less an exercise in futility, and she's still a few weeks shy of her 22nd birthday. After inspiring permanent tribute at South Carolina by leading her team to its first national title, Wilson became the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft for reasons that are self-evident to anyone who's watched her play. She's 6'4" and averaged a double-double during her final season at South Carolina, a mark she also reached during her debut game with the Las Vegas Aces. Wilson is, quite simply, a threat from anywhere on the court, offensively and defensively.

But that's only part of what makes her the WNBA's next great hope: Wilson combines superlative ability on the court with what can only be described as infectious joy off it. She's outgoing and good-humored, willing to share her fangirl moments and face-plants as easily as she does her highlights. She has a signature accessory (pearls) and song ("Knuck If You Buck," by Crime Mob). Wilson has all the makings of a superstar, and in her hometown she already is one—girls keep her name in their Twitter bios, and she can barely go outside without getting accosted.

Wilson hears the critics, which are prolific for any woman in sports, and makes it seem like she does not; she takes the expectations—which were near-superhuman, prompting double- and triple-teams during her first game as a pro—and exceeds them, inevitably adding some sauce to whatever task is at hand. Her example makes next-level basketball ability seem both approachable and attainable, especially to the kids who idolize her. "One of the things that I'm most excited about is building a brand for young girls to look up to and build off of," Wilson told Bleacher Report earlier this year.  

She might already have statues in the works, but the heights Wilson can reach are still far from being set in stone.

    

Natalie Weiner is a staff writer for B/R Mag. Follow her on Twitter: @natalieweiner.


Check out more game-changers on the B/R POWER 50 Level Up list:

1. Cristiano Ronaldo
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo
3. Chloe Kim
4. WWE Women's Division
5. A'ja Wilson
6. Sylvia Fowles
7. Aaron Judge
8. Shohei Ohtani
9. Russell Westbrook
10. Sabrina Ionescu

Explore the B/R POWER 50, a list of the most influential people in sports culture right now >>

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