A'ja Wilson is that person who likes to see healthy snacks at Super Bowl parties, but otherwise it's clear she has one of the boldest personalities in basketball. From being the life of the party at the Aces' championship parades to publishing her own book, the WNBA star can do it all.
Her personality perfectly fits Las Vegas, and right now she couldn't be prouder to see the city gaining more respect as a sports destination.
"It's a little bit of everything for everybody. I think we have a great balance of entertainment, gambling, sports. We are growing," Wilson told CBS Sports. "We are firing on all cylinders, and I think it's just a great place for people just to go and have fun. … You can't half-ass things in Vegas, you gotta go big. I love that about Vegas because we go big, not only for the visitors of the town, but also for our players, our teams and entertainers as well."
But before Las Vegas there was South Carolina, and a big part of Wilson's heart remains there. South Carolina loves her right back, as she even has a bronze statue in Columbia, where Wilson starred for the Gamecocks from 2014-2018 under head coach Dawn Staley. Together, they earned the program's first ever national championship.
Staley collected a second national title in 2022, and the Gamecocks are still a force to be reckoned with this season as the only undefeated team remaining in college basketball.
"I'm going to be super biased, but when it comes to my Gamecocks, I'm behind them 100% because they are doing it the right way," Wilson said. "They are having fun while doing it, and Coach Staley is just being really disciplined, I know she is, but she is allowing them to be themselves. It's really hard to do that with NIL -- it's give and take sometimes for a coach. But it's great to find that middle and never losing sight of what got them there."
Wilson said she is excited to see how much women's college basketball is growing and the increased recognition the players are getting. She was particularly excited to see the buzz around South Carolina's game against defending national champion LSU on Jan. 28 --behind a strong second-half performance.
"When it comes to watching the college game, and watching it grow, I'm just so happy that it's growing," Wilson said. "Any time you leave a space, leave the NCAA, you hope that it flourishes and that it's not the same. I would be so mad if I looked back at college and I was like, 'They are still doing this? They still don't have this?'"
NIL is perhaps the biggest difference. Wilson said she loves the fact that it is available to players, and she would've loved it for herself as a student-athlete. However, she is also not sure how well she would've been able to handle it all.
"I wouldn't be able to fathom having an agent in college because I feel like those are the years that you can really kind of wild out. Those are the years you really learn," Wilson said. "... You are there to live and have fun, so I think NIL kind of shifts the table there, but when it comes to them making their bread and going after whatever they want to go after, go for it. Do it, have fun. I think I would do the same.
"But I think the biggest thing for me is not losing the focus of what got me to this point. People are different. I see a lot of different things and I'm like, 'OK, that sounds cool, but it's a lot.' College is already a lot, so I can only imagine."
Wilson would've likely made good money in college as a three-time All-American and the 2018 Consensus National Player of the Year. Nevertheless, things still turned out well for the No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 WNBA Draft. She is a five-time All-Star, a two-time WNBA champion and an Olympic gold medalist. Wilson is one of the biggest names in the league and has earned a lot of big partnerships -- which have helped Wilson accomplish her dream of helping her mom fully retire.
In 2022, Wilson became the first female athlete to work with Ruffles. She got her own chips flavor, Smoky BBQ flavored ridge twists, which was a nod to her beloved South Carolina.
That partnership will be putting Wilson to work during the NBA All-Star Weekend. She and Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum have been tasked with choosing two fans to attempt 4-point shots from the Ruffles Ridgeline ahead of the All-Star Celebrity Game.
"I'm nervous for them," Wilson joked. "My advice would be to use your legs because it's not in front just a small amount of people, it's a lot of people. Use your legs and if you airball, it's OK. But I feel like if you use your legs and really aim forward, you are going to be fine."
Wilson was also announced an assistant coach for Team Stephen A., which begs the question of how she is making time for it all.
Although it is the WNBA offseason, Wilson's schedule is busy right now. She released her first book, "Dear Black Girls: How to Be True to You," this week, and she'll be promoting it in between all her other activities. The book is about her experience growing up as a Black girl in South Carolina, but it also touches on topics everyone can relate to, including giving yourself grace because life can be a complicated journey.
"Book Tour day one almost took me out but we back at for day twooooo," Wilson posted on social media Wednesday.