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A’ja Wilson finally gets her flowers

Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY
Saturday was a well-deserved celebration for Aces star A’ja Wilson, from the announcement of her signature sneaker to her return home.

COLUMBIA, S.C —Did anyone in the world have a better day than A’ja Wilson?

The day became a league-wide celebration of the Aces cornerstone, and it was ever so deserved. The two-time champion and MVP unveiled plans for her long-awaited signature Nike shoe just hours before the Aces played their lone preseason game at her alma mater, the University of South Carolina, in her honor. 

To answer the opening question, I think not. 

The Aces faced the Puerto Rican National Team in a game that served as more of a tune-up for the two-time champions as opposed to a true test, as detailed by the 102-50 final score. 

Still, save for Chelsea Gray who was held out due to injury, the Aces played their stars a considerable amount of time. Wilson especially, as she led the charge for the Aces with 27 points and 14 rebounds in the blowout.

Kelsey Plum added 21 points and 3 assists, while free agent acquisition Megan Gustafson contributed 17 points including four three-pointers.

Wilson spoke to the crowd of 13,507 who packed Colonial Life Arena after the final buzzer sounded, sharing an emotional moment with the friends, family and now fans who have been in corner throughout her entire journey. 

“I was crying on the way here, because this is something that’s truly special and it’s something that we all built. I’m so grateful that you guys could be here tonight.

“God has truly blessed me to be able to play on this court one more time and this means the world to me. You guys need to understand, people here that have watched me since I’ve been in preschool, to watch me now. Truly, truly, I’m so grateful.

“I really wouldn’t be A’ja Wilson without you guys.

It was clear with Wilson’s announcement that her selection as a signature Nike athlete was in the works for a long time. It just as quickly became apparent that the significance of making this announcement upon her return to South Carolina played a deciding role in how long that information was held. 

It’s hard to argue with the decision. While Wilson is possibly the most underrated athlete in mainstream American sports, today was a moment centered entirely around her. It didn’t feel like a measured response by Nike to the criticism of other athletes getting their moment before her, even if it was. 

It just felt like a celebration of A’ja Wilson, in the perfect place to do it. At the perfect moment to do it.