Approximately 222 miles from where a statue of her stands outside of Colonial Life Arena in her hometown of Columbia, South Carolina, No. 22 A’ja Wilson authored another epic.
She lit up Gateway Center Arena for 53 points, leading the Las Vegas Aces past the Atlanta Dream, 112-110.
While her career high and this season’s high, Wilson’s 53 also matches the WNBA’s single-game scoring record, which was set by Wilson’s former teammate Liz Cambage in 2018 when Cambage was a member of the Dallas Wings. Riquna Williams, Wilson’s current teammate who remains away from the team due to domestic violence allegations, is the only other player to post 50 or more points in a single game, dropping 51 as a member of the Tulsa Shock in 2013.
#TopTier people do top tier things‼️
For the first time since 2018, a 50-PT single-game performance has been dropped in the WNBA
— WNBA (@WNBA) August 23, 2023
Even though head coach Becky Hammon, who, when asked during the game if her team had gotten Wilson the ball enough, answered, “It’s never enough,” Wilson’s 53 points suggests the Aces did a pretty good job of feeding the reigning MVP.
From there, she showed off her full offensive arsenal, draining face-up jumpers, overpowering opponents on post ups and earning her way to the free throw line. Wilson was 16-for-23 from the field, good for almost 70 percent. She also went a nearly-perfect 20-for-21 from the foul line. For good measure, she also made her one 3-point attempt.
Assessing her performance after the game, Wilson described the maturation of her offensive approach, saying:
I’m more aware of how to get the basketball and timing when it comes to passing and blocks. Shooting it, timing the defender and seeing what they’re doing. I think that’s something that is so key that I’ve been really honing in on because I see a lot of different defenses, every single possession. So just timing, seeing when my teammates are open, making sure they’re in their best spot and vice versa. So I think that’s the biggest thing that I feel like has been separating throughout my career and what I’ve been doing so far in the league.
Teammate Kelsey Plum, who finished the night with 20 points and seven assists, emphasized her appreciation of not just Wilson’s 53-point effort but her season-long excellence, sharing:
I really feel like we’re watching this generational talent. And I think that we got to stop comparing people and just let them be great. What we’re seeing right now is historic, it’s a historic run and it’s just beginning. So, I mean, I get the privilege of seeing it every day in practice and locker room and stuff like that, but this is one of the greatest players of all time and she’s just starting to click which is crazy.
Ever the coach, Hammon praised Wilson’s defense after the game, saying, “She was really good on the defensive end, the rim protection. She was just everywhere.” By holding the Dream to a mere 13 points in the third quarter, the Aces were able to ensure that Wilson’s scoring explosion would not be for naught and, in turn, improve their overall record to 29-4.
Hammon also said of Wilson, “She is just special. Her real gift is in her humility and grace and how she handles herself and her teammates. She is a phenomenal superstar.”
A phenomenal 53!