After conquering women’s college basketball and the WNBA, A’ja Wilson is moving on to her next challenge. The 24-year-old from Hopkins, S.C., is in the midst of her fourth WNBA season for the Las Vegas Aces after being selected first overall in the 2018 draft.
Wilson will be making her Olympic debut in Tokyo, as she’ll join 11 of the country’s best women’s basketball players vying for Team USA’s seventh consecutive gold medal. It may be her first time competing, but Wilson is already established as one of the world’s best players and she’s sure to be a key contributor in 2021.
Wilson led South Carolina to its first NCAA women’s national title
Wilson was a beast from the moment she set foot on campus at the University of South Carolina. She started one game as a freshman, but averaged 13.1 points per game and was named SEC Freshman of the Year and First Team All-SEC.
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Over the next three years, Wilson cemented her legacy as one of college basketball’s all-time greats. From her sophomore through senior years, Wilson was a three-time SEC Player of the Year, three-time consensus First Team All-American and two-time SEC Defensive Player of the Year. In her junior year (2016-17), the Gamecocks went 33-4 and defeated Mississippi State in the national championship game for their first ever NCAA title.
She was named 2020 WNBA MVP at just 24 years old
Watch all the action from the Tokyo Olympics live on NBC
The 2020 WNBA season was anything but ordinary, with the COVID-19 pandemic delaying the start and ultimately forcing the league into a bubble at IMG Academy in Florida. Over the 22-game season, Wilson averaged 20.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game for the 18-4 Las Vegas Aces.
She was named league MVP, leading the Aces to the WNBA Finals before ultimately losing to the Seattle Storm. At 24 years old, Wilson was tied with Tina Charles (2012) and Breanna Stewart (2018) as the youngest league MVP over the last 12 years.
She won a gold medal for Team USA at the 2018 World Cup
Wilson’s never played in the Olympics, but her Team USA resume is loaded. Team USA is a perfect 47-0 in games Wilson has played, which includes the 2018 World Cup, the 2020 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament and numerous other squads dating back to 2013.
During her time with Team USA, Wilson has been honored with a handful of awards. She was named to the 2020 FIBA Olympic Qualifying All-Tournament Team, 2015 USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year, 2015 FIBA U19 World Cup MVP and 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship MVP. Wilson should feel right at home with “USA” across her chest in Tokyo.
Wilson made Forbes’ 30 Under 30 List in 2021
Wilson is just as impressive off the court as she is on the court. Earlier this year, she was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 List for sports. Wilson earned the distinction thanks in part to her work on LeBron James’ “More Than a Vote” campaign. Wilson and her parents founded the A’ja Wilson Foundation to help children and families who struggle with dyslexia.
Mountain Dew made Wilson its first WNBA ambassador
Mountain Dew represents NBA stars Joel Embiid and Russell Westbrook, but never signed a WNBA player until Wilson entered the league in 2018.
“Me being the first WNBA player with Dew is also special,” Wilson said. “I'm trying to use my voice to bring people together. And to help us all get an understanding that we're all out here doing things we love, but at the same time, we are part of something bigger than basketball.”
Wilson is also part of the Nike family of athletes, where she has an exclusive deal.
Wilson and Kelsey Plum are teammates in Las Vegas, frenemies on social media
In her downtime, Wilson often fires up her phone keyboard and takes to Twitter. Wilson and her Aces teammate Kelsey Plum are frequently getting into hilarious arguments online:
Plum will also play for Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics, as she’ll suit up for the 3x3 women’s basketball team. The Twitter exchanges between these two in Tokyo will be must-see as both teams have gold-medal expectations.