Thursday, May 23, 2024


For 3 many years we’ve lined many wonderful basketball characters, however some stand above the remaining—not solely due to their on-court abilities (although these are all the time related), however due to how they influenced and proceed to affect basketball tradition, and thus influenced SLAM. In the meantime, SLAM has additionally modified these gamers’ lives in varied methods, as we’ve documented their careers with traditional covers, legendary images, wonderful tales, compelling movies and extra. 

We compiled a gaggle of people (programming notice: 30 entries, not 30 folks complete) who imply one thing particular to SLAM and to our viewers. Learn the full record right here and order your copy of SLAM 248, the place this record was initially printed, right here.

When A’ja Wilson appeared alongside then-Las Vegas Aces teammate Liz Cambage on the duvet of SLAM 223, they turned the third and fourth ladies to ever achieve this. That was again in July 2019. Wilson was in her second 12 months within the W after being chosen because the No. 1 choose in 2018, and had already added WNBA Rookie of the Yr and All-Rookie First Staff honors to her skilled basketball résumé. However A’ja had but to emerge into her full MVP kind. The Gamecocks had but to call the statue in her honor. The WNBA had but to make her the face of the League. 

As for us, effectively, to not brag or something, however we all the time knew that the Columbia, SC, native was it. Method again in 2014, Ryan Jones interviewed her over the telephone for a bit that ran in PUNKS (our highschool part, now referred to as The Come Up). On the time, Wilson hadn’t but graduated from Heathwood Corridor Episcopal College, and he or she admitted in her interview that she was “nervous” main as much as the USA Basketball U18 nationwide crew tryouts. The interview, which is featured within the SLAM Digital Archive (go subscribe by way of!) is a must-read for any and all basketball followers as a result of it exhibits, in its truest kind, the story of a star earlier than even she knew she’d change into one. 

“I can say positively the 2 issues that stand proud of the interview are simply her poise and her confidence,” Jones advised me. “You’ve interviewed sufficient of the HS youngsters so you know the way it’s—a few of them actually come off like the youngsters they nonetheless are, however a relative few have this maturity that will get your consideration. A’ja positively had that. And the boldness, too—she wasn’t cocky, however simply very confident. Particularly now as a mum or dad of teenagers myself, I’m all the time so impressed when anybody has that type of confidence at 17 or 18.”

Wilson’s resolution to attend South Carolina was then a daring transfer for a prime recruit, however Daybreak Staley’s program, in A’ja’s personal phrases, was “on the rise,” and Wilson, like her teammates, had the objective of successful a nationwide championship. She’d do this and much more throughout her school profession. First, SEC Freshman of the Yr. She’d change into an NCAA champion and the match’s Most Excellent Participant in 2017, plus the consensus Nationwide Participant of the Yr and the Lisa Leslie Award winner the season after. Oh, and he or she was a First Staff All-American and the SEC Participant of the Yr from 2016-18, and the convention’s Defensive Participant of the Yr in 2016 and 2018. That’s all earlier than she made it to the League and graced the duvet of SLAM not as soon as, however on three completely different events—together with the WNBA champs problem two years in a row—and final 12 months’s third problem of WSLAM. 

After I sat down with Wilson and her Aces teammates on the WSLAM 3 cowl shoot, she exuded poise. She was unapologetically herself each in entrance of the digicam and off it. It’s that confidence that’s pushed her to take over the League and change into a two-time MVP and two-time champion. 

Our 2023 Champs cowl of Wilson rocking black Air Power 1s and standing so valiantly is the epitome of what makes ladies’s basketball so thrilling and so rattling enjoyable. She’s the face of the League, of WSLAM, of the place the sport is heading within the years to come back. And simply as we’ve proven her love through the years, she’s proven it proper again, from attending our 2023 WNBA All-Star social gathering which celebrated the WSLAM 3 cowl launch to constantly reposting our content material. Relationships like these are larger than journal covers and interviews, however we’re so grateful that we get to do what we do with stars like her. 

“Watching her within the [almost] decade since [the PUNKS interview], she’s positively a type of gamers I look again on with a little bit little bit of pleasure, not that I predicted HOF-caliber greatness, however simply that from speaking to her at that age, I anticipated her to be actually, actually good,” Jones says. “It’s been very cool to see her mainly be the entire bundle, so far as one of many handful of gamers with each the sport and character to mainly carry the W into the subsequent technology.” 

Photograph by way of Getty Pictures.

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