A'ja Wilson Wins WNBA Defensive Player Award, Says Players Will Become 'Household Names'

"I just think everyone's going to really start to understand it, because it's not too far off from the men's game," says Wilson, who led the league in blocks during the 2022 regular season

'ja Wilson #22 of the Las Vegas Aces poses for a portrait during 2021 WNBA Media Day at the Michelob Ultra Arena on May 2, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Photo: Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty

Las Vegas Aces forward A'ja Wilson has been named the 2022 Defensive Player of the Year, the WNBA announced on Tuesday.

The win adds to Wilson's trophy case, which already includes her 2020 Kia WNBA MVP title and the most fan votes at the 2022 AT&T WNBA All-Star Game in July after she guided Team Wilson to a 134-112 win. In honor of being named the 2022 Kia WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, Wilson, 26, will receive $5,150 and a specially designed trophy from Tiffany & Co.

Wilson, who led the league in blocks this season with almost two per game, tells PEOPLE that defense has been an emphasis for the Becky Hammon-coached Aces since the season's start.

"Something that [Hammon] has been talking about this whole season has to be just rebounding and playing defense at the end of the day," says Wilson, who also ranked second in defensive rebounding this season, and finished with at least 10 defensive rebounds in a game nine times.

"That's what's going to get us what we need in order to win," Wilson says of the Las Vegas team's effort on defense. "[Hammon] has just really been harping on that and making sure that we understand that it's about us."

In her most dominant season yet, Wilson has become a face of the WNBA, and is working towards becoming a household name in basketball. In addition to her defensive title and a shot at the league's MVP award, Wilson just announced her recent partnership with Ruffles, a historic move for the chip company as she becomes the first female athlete on the company's roster.

"It's a blessing, it really is," Wilson says of her success this season both on and off the court.

Wilson predicts major growth for the WNBA, which has seen significant growth in ratings this season. This year, the league reported its opening round of the 2022 postseason posted the highest ratings in 15 years. Within the next decade, Wilson says she think players "would be household names."

A'ja Wilson #22 of the Las Vegas Aces looks on against the New York Liberty at Barclays Center on July 14, 2022 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Las Vegas Aces defeated the New York Liberty 108-74.
Mitchell Leff/Getty

"I think slowly but surely we're starting to be out there putting ourselves out there in a way that people want to gravitate to it and come to games, figure out our stories, and want to follow us. So I think from a respect aspect, I think it's going to grow to where people really respect us and know who we are."

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Wilson tells PEOPLE she thinks the game will keep shifting around the league as well. "I think it's going to continue to get faster and more skilled," Wilson says. "I just think everyone's going to really start to understand it, because it's not too far off from the men's game. It's just that we don't dunk as much. So I think it's going to be a matter of people taking that chance of watching us and helping us grow."

Wilson and the Las Vegas Aces will attempt to get a win in the second game of their semi-finals series against the Seattle Storm when they meet on Wednesday. Tip-off begins at 7 p.m. PT on ESPN2.

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