3.22.19

A Throwback to the Future with A’ja Wilson

A'ja Wilson - Be strong.

Less than a year ago, A’ja Wilson moved from her home state of South Carolina to the desert lands of Nevada to begin her professional basketball career. Since then, she’s allowed nothing to deter her from rising to the top. Her journey has not been without struggle, but Wilson has learned to celebrate her successes along the way and use her experiences (both good and bad) to shape the future.

Respecting the Past

Although twenty-two-year-old Wilson is a new name in the basketball biz, she’s already rubbing elbows with elite basketball icons, broadcasting college games on television, and judging professional dunk contests. However, there was a time when she could barely get on the court to log any minutes at all.

“When I was 13 or 14 years old, I was absolutely horrible at basketball,” Wilson said. “My dad was the assistant coach, and I still didn’t get in.”

Though times have changed, Wilson remains grateful for those moments that shaped her into the athlete she is now. She fondly remembers the first time she made it off the bench with only 20 seconds left in the game.

“That was my defining moment,” Wilson said. “From that experience I really wanted to get more time on the court with my teammates. It motivated me to work hard and focus on my craft, and it’s helped me become the player I am today.”

But while her road to stardom was influenced by key moments on the court, her path to leadership was influenced by a specific person. Without hesitation, Wilson will tell you that her biggest role model and shero was her grandma.

“She was so special to me,” Wilson said. “And the beautiful thing is she never watched me play basketball, but she always had a listening ear and led me in the right direction. I hope I’m half the woman she was.”

Acknowledging the Present

Wilson’s college career with South Carolina ended in 2018 after making it to the quarter finals of the national basketball tournament. Although it ended sooner than she would have liked, it didn’t hinder her move to the pros. She was the first overall draft pick in 2018 and was selected by the newly formed Las Vegas team.

A'ja Wilson - Be proud.

Less than 10 games into the 2018 season, Wilson set a record with 35 points and over 10 rebounds in a single game (only the second rookie in league history to do so). By the end of the season, Wilson led her team in points, rebounds, and blocks making her an obvious contender to win Rookie of the Year, which she did. But despite the addition of the young superstar, the team finished in ninth, one spot short of the playoffs.

During that inaugural year, the Las Vegas team faced challenges adjusting to a new coach and a new city, but Wilson looks forward to the potential of the upcoming season.

“We know each other now,” Wilson said. “We know how each of us plays, and we can feed off each other, so I’m excited to see our chemistry in the game.”

Embracing the Future

Wilson’s past has impacted who she is today, but those are only the early chapters of her story. There are records to be broken and glass ceilings to shatter, and Wilson is prepared to forge her own way.

“I think mentally I’ve changed the way I approach certain things in life, not just on the court, but off the court as well,” Wilson said.

She’s looking forward to her future playing professional basketball and seizing opportunities to advocate for female empowerment.

“I didn’t understand the voice I had until I got to the professional league, and I saw how people listened,” Wilson said. “So, I’m not going to just sit here. I’m going to speak on empowering women because we deserve a change. There has to be a change.”

Wilson also looks forward to seeing her non-profit organization, the A’ja Wilson Foundation, grow and make a difference in the lives of kids struggling with learning disabilities and bullying.

“I was diagnosed with dyslexia in high school, and I absolutely hated it,” Wilson said. “It took a long time for me to come to terms with it. Once I found the resources, they really helped me overcome the fact that I had a learning disability. So, I wanted to start the A’ja Wilson Foundation to ensure schools have those resources.”

The foundation is still young, but, working with her parents, Wilson is excited to be raising money and dreaming of the impact it’ll have down the road.

A'ja Wilson - Be you.

Wilson understands that the moments and mentors of her past have helped bring her to where she is now and that, by investing in the lives of the next generation, she can pass on the torch.

“The reason I play, and the reason I am who I am is because I want young kids, both boys and girls, to look up to me and say, ‘Okay, she did it the right way. She succeeded, and it can be done,’” Wilson said.

Wilson has only begun writing her story and making a difference in the world around her. And as she continues to be a leader, on and off the court, you won’t be able to ignore this superstar.

To shop A’ja Wilson’s looks visit eastbay.com.

Looking for more reads featuring Nike Air models? Check out these Air Max Month blog posts:
Release Report: Nike Air Max 720
A Look Back: Nike Air in the Early ’00s

Haskins Featured Image

Dwayne Haskins Jr.: The Future King

The hype is real. Dwayne Haskins has a reputation of exceeding expectations and plans to continue that trend on his way to becoming the future king of Washington.

Savage Featured Image

Darnell Savage Jr.: 3 tips to prepare yourself for success

Eastbay's July cover athlete Darnell Savage Jr. gives insight on how to prepare yourself for success.

The Freak 1: Giannis Antetokounmpo’s First Signature Shoe

The Prince of Milwaukee finally has his own signature shoe, and we have a full breakdown for you.

Julie Ertz Featured Image

Julie Ertz: Attacking Adversity

Julie Ertz is one of the fiercest competitors on the planet. Find out how she tackled the challenges and obstacles in her way to become an international soccer superstar.

Stefon Diggs: Portrait of a Playmaker

Stefon Diggs is a perfect portrait of the modern-day wide receiver. We sat down with the Minnesota star to see how he mastered his craft.

Nike Training Shoes: Workout like the Pros

Find the best football training shoe for your skill set. Read how Todd Gurley, Jarvis Landry, and Cam Jordan impact their workouts with Nike training gear.

BILLA jersey image

PREVIEWING THE BALLISLIFE ALL-AMERICAN GAME

Get prepared for this year's Ballislife All-American game with Eastbay's pregame coverage.

Guardians of the Gridiron

Eastbay sat down with Todd Gurley, Jarvis Landry, and Cam Jordan to see what makes each of them a supernatural talent at their position.

AAU Winner Featured Image

AAU Sullivan Awards: Plummer Takes Home the Hardware.

Stanford senior Kathryn Plummer took home the AAU Sullivan Award this year.

Looney Tunes Feature Image

Space Jam 2: An analysis of the best kicks for the Tune Squad

An in-depth analysis of what shoes each member of the Tune Squad should wear in Space Jam 2

A'ja Wilson and Air Max

A Throwback to the Future with A’ja Wilson

A'ja Wilson is a professional basketball player and outspoken role model. Discover her story of how she went from benchwarmer to baller.

EB-031819-SullivanAwards-660x660

The AAU Sullivan Award: Meet Your Finalists

The final round of voting for the AAU Sullivan Award is now open! Learn more about each finalist here.

See More