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Las Vegas Aces’ A’ja Wilson named WNBA MVP for second time

Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson has been named WNBA MVP for the second time, it was announced Wednesday.

Wilson, 26, also won the award in 2020, becoming the seventh player in league history to earn MVP honors more than once, joining three-time winners Lauren Jackson, Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes and the two-time MVP Cynthia Cooper, Elena Delle Donne and Candace Parker.

The announcement came a day after Wilson and the Aces closed their semifinal series against the Seattle Storm to advance to the WNBA Finals, which begin Sunday in Las Vegas.

Wilson had previously been named the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year for this season.

“It doesn’t even seem real,” Wilson said of his second MVP. “It’s something you don’t even really dream about. You look at the list of people who have won more than one, and it’s amazing to think about. I smile just to have my name in [the] MVP talk, because our league is so tough.”

Wilson edged out Seattle forward Breanna Stewart, who was the 2018 MVP, in voting by a media panel. Wilson received 31 of 56 first-place votes and 478 points overall; Stewart finished second with 446 points (23 first-place votes).

Wilson will receive $15,450 and a trophy from Tiffany & Co.

Las Vegas goaltender Kelsey Plum was third in voting with 181 points, while Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas was fourth with 94. Chicago’s Parker, who won MVP in 2008 and 2013, finished fifth with 78 points, including a vote for first place.

Wilson is aiming for the first WNBA championship for the Aces franchise, whose history dates back to 1997 when it was located in Utah. She was the Aces’ first draft pick in 2018 — the team’s first year in Las Vegas — and quickly became the face of the franchise. She led the team to the 2020 WNBA Finals, where they lost to Seattle in the COVID-19 bubble season in Florida.

The No. 1-seeded Aces head to this year’s WNBA Finals with home-court advantage in the best-of-five series. They await the winner of Thursday’s Game 5 of the other semifinal between the No. 2 seed Chicago and the No. 3 Connecticut.

In addition to Wilson’s two individual awards, her Aces teammate Jackie Young was named the league’s Most Improved Player, while Becky Hammon was named Coach of the Year.

What matters most to Wilson, however, is getting a title. During the regular season, she averaged 19.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 1.9 blocked shots, leading the league with 17 double-doubles. During the playoffs, his averages increased to 20.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. She topped 30 points in back-to-back double-double performances against Seattle in Games 2 and 3.

In Tuesday’s closing game — a 97-92 win over the Storm — Wilson had 23 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots.

The former South Carolina star, who led the Gamecocks to their first national championship in 2017, also won Olympic gold in 2021.

Wilson points to her relationship with her parents and South Carolina coach Dawn Staley to set her up for a professional career that has been stellar over the course of five seasons.

“My role this year is to really be a vocal leader and also the emotional leader of the team,” Wilson said. “But I don’t lead people. It has to be about mutual respect. And I’ve built relationships and bonds with each of my teammates in a way where I know I can hold them accountable, and they can do the same for me.

“It’s all part of how I continue to develop who I am as a player and as a person. It hasn’t all been easy, but I wake up every day thinking, ‘Okay, I have another opportunity to have fun and do something I love.'”


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