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 a second time, it was announced Wednesday.

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

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

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

"It doesn't even sound real," Wilson said of winning her second MVP. "It's something you don't really even dream of. You look at the list of people who have won more than one, and it's incredible to think about. I smile just to have my name in [the] MVP conversation, because our league is so tough."

Wilson edged 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 total points; Stewart was second with 446 points (23 first-place votes).

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

Las Vegas guard Kelsey Plum was third in the voting with 181 points, while Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas was fourth with 94. Chicago's Parker, who won the MVP in 2008 and 2013, was fifth with 78 points, including one first-place vote.

Wilson is going after the first WNBA championship for the Aces franchise, whose history dates to 1997, when it was located in Utah. She was the Aces' No. 1 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 Aces, seeded No. 1, head into the WNBA Finals this year with home-court advantage in the best-of-five series. They await the winner of Thursday's Game 5 of the other semifinal between No. 2 seed Chicago and No. 3 Connecticut.

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

What matters most to Wilson, though, 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, her averages increased to 20.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. She topped 30 points in consecutive double-double performances against Seattle in Games 2 and 3.

In Tuesday's close-out game -- a 97-92 victory 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 in getting her ready for a pro career that has been stellar all 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'm not bossing people around. It's got to be about mutual respect. And I've formed 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 a part of how I'm still developing who I am as a player and a person. It hasn't all been easy, but I wake up every day like, 'All right, I get another opportunity to have fun and do something that I love.'"