Las Vegas Aces head coach Becky Hammon reportedly asked one question as she entered Tuesday's pre-game news conference to talk about A'ja Wilson's case for the WNBA MVP award ahead of her team's 91-84 win over the Dallas Wings:
“Do we have any national media in here?”
A panel of national media members voted Wilson into third place in a historic three-way MVP race, the league announced that morning. New York Liberty star Breanna Stewart secured the honor for her second MVP award. Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas, who made triple-double history, took second with 439 points (23 of 60 first-place votes). Wilson earned 433 points (17 first-place votes).
Hammon came equipped with a color-coded note card packed with stats to address the outcome, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal's Andy Yamashita.
She reportedly used it to point out that Wilson recorded just seven fewer points than Stewart in the regular season on 79 fewer shots. Stewart also played 137 more minutes more than Wilson, which adds up to about three-and-a-half games.
Wilson averaged 22.8 points per game on 55.7 percent shooting. She went back-to-back and won the Defensive Player of the Year award, snagging 9.5 rebounds in addition to 2.2 blocks per game.
Hammon was adamant in her argument that the former Gamecock also deserved to go back-to-back for the MVP award, which she won in 2022.
"People didn't do the math, people didn't do their homework," Hammon said before reportedly calling for the votes to be made public.
This year, one voter had Wilson fourth on their MVP ballot. The award had the second-smallest margin (seven points) between the top two finishers in WNBA history since the 2005 race between Sheryl Swoopes and Lauren Jackson that was separated by seven points. It's also the second time a winner received fewer first-place votes than the runner-up, as Swoops won with four fewer first-place votes.
In another highlight of Wilson's 2023 campaign, she tied the WNBA’s single-game scoring record when she scored 53 points against the Atlanta Dream on Aug. 22.
"She put together the greatest individual performance this league has ever seen," Hammon said via the Review-Journal. "So when you're talking efficiency, field-goal percentage, rebounding, defense — the whole thing — and it's just a real shame because we're talking about the MVP of the league."
Hammon gave credit to Thomas and Stewart for their historic seasons but continued to emphasize Wilson’s success.
"A'ja was the most dominant player in the league this year, on the most dominant team, on the most dominant offense the league has ever seen with the No. 1 defense," Hammon noted. "I don't know what else the girl has to do."
Wilson opted to acknowledge the disappointment while putting it in perspective of the team's goal to win another championship.
"It hurt like hell," she said Tuesday night. "This award, it's a cherry on top of the mountain of ice cream we've built up. The sundae is still good without the cherry. I'm not going to finish the bowl of ice cream because the cherry's not on top. I've still done enough, and this team has more to give."
As the reigning champion Aces took a 2-0 lead in the WNBA semifinals, Wilson recorded 30 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and a steal. She made history as the first WNBA player with three straight 30-plus-point playoff games, a streak she will look to continue as the series continues Friday.