After watching A’ja Wilson go off for 53 points to tie the WNBA single-game scoring record Tuesday night, Las Vegas coach Becky Hammon sounded like she was describing the next movie superhero when talking about the Aces’ superstar forward.
“She runs like a deer, jumps like a cat and catches as if she were Spider-Man,” Hammon said. “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.”
Just 11 days after setting a career high with 40 points, Wilson went even bigger as the Aces won 112-100 on the road against the Atlanta Dream. Her 53-point outburst matched that of center Liz Cambage, who set the scoring record while playing for the Dallas Wings against the New York Liberty on July 17, 2018.
The only other WNBA player to score at least 50 in a game is guard Riquna Williams, who had 51 for the Tulsa Shock against San Antonio in 2013.
Wilson made 16 of 23 shots from the floor and was 20-of-21 from the foul line, the most makes and attempts from the line in her career. She is the second WNBA player to make at least 20 free throws in a game; Cynthia Cooper of the 1998 Houston Comets holds the record with 22.
Wilson made four free throws in the final minute to reach her record-tying point total. After being fouled with 51 seconds left and making both shots, Wilson got her chance at the record three seconds later when Dream coach Tanisha Wright picked up two technical fouls and was ejected. Wilson hit both foul shots to put her at 53.
“I was just really aggressive today,” said Wilson, who turned 27 earlier this month and is already a two-time WNBA MVP. “I’m out there having fun, and I get the opportunity to play with some amazing women. I don’t take these moments for granted. But it wasn’t a feeling like, ‘Oh, my God!’ It was kind of just in the flow.
“The biggest thing is just my timing. I see a lot of different defenses every possession.”
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Wilson was primarily defended by Cheyenne Parker, but five other Dream players also took the difficult defensive assignment. Atlanta also had little success when it doubled Wilson.
“I really feel like we’re watching just a generational talent,” Aces teammate Kelsey Plum, who contributed 20 points and seven assists, said of Wilson. “What we’re seeing right now is historic, and it’s just beginning. This is one of the greatest players of all time.”
A’ja Wilson had 31 points in the second half Tuesday night, tied for the third most in any half in league history. Each of the four previous players to score 31 or more in a half did so in the second frame as well.
Wilson now has 735 points this season, passing Plum (726 in 2022) for the most in a season in Aces history. The Aces reached 100 points for the ninth time this season, and they are 29-4, tying the 2014 Phoenix Mercury for most wins in a season in WNBA history. (Phoenix went 29-5 in a 34-game season in 2014.)
The league-leading Aces were coming off their first regular-season home loss of the season, falling 78-72 to the Los Angeles Sparks on Saturday.
The defending WNBA champions started their four-game road trip at Atlanta with not only Wilson’s big game but a near triple-double from guard Chelsea Gray (16 points, 12 assists, 9 rebounds), who had a triple-double Thursday against New York.
In addition to her record-setting offense, Wilson made an impact defensively with seven rebounds and four blocks, giving her 70 blocks this season to lead the league. She held the Dream to 3-of-14 shooting when she contested a shot attempt.
“She was really good on the defensive end, the rim protection,” Hammon said. “She was just everywhere.”