September 28, 2021 | ESPN.com
WHEN A’JA WILSON stepped into the Las Vegas Aces’ meeting room in the WNBA bubble in Bradenton, Florida, she thought she was attending a meeting with referees ahead of the 2020 WNBA Finals. She had finished her media obligations for the day, and a jitters-laden adrenaline rush was bubbling up before her first finals appearance.
Wearing red shorts, an Aces T-shirt, and a string of pearls around her neck, Wilson took a seat on a couch in the front of the room. When Cathy Engelbert walked in, Wilson figured a visit from the commissioner must be what happened before every Finals.
Engelbert strolled to the front of the room and started talking about how difficult the bubble season had been. Wilson felt the truth of that. Not seeing her family had been especially hard. Normally they see each other at least once a month. That hadn’t been possible this year. She missed her parents, her house and her dogs, Ace and Deuce.
Then, Engelbert pivoted. She started reading a stat line, and it was then that Wilson realized what was happening. It was her stat line. She covered her eyes with her right hand as the tears spilled. She pulled her shirt over her face. Engelbert was announcing that she, A’ja Wilson, was the 2020 WNBA MVP.
Wilson stood to accept the trophy, and her teammates belted out “MVP” chants. “I can’t thank you all enough, honestly,” she said, the emotion making it increasingly difficult to get the words out. “I wouldn’t be this without you guys.”