A line of thousands trickled in to ColaKicks in Columbia, South Carolina on the afternoon of April 14 — some with a memento and a sharpie, others with an awaiting phone ready to snap a selfie. Others simply came to say hello and offer congratulations to local hero A’ja Wilson, who just two days before was chosen by the Las Vegas Aces No. 1 overall in the WNBA Draft.
Among all the interactions, three stand out from the autograph signing, which I was present for because of my former gig as a South Carolina Athletics beat writer.
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· One little girl, no older than 6, with braids in her hair and a pink flowered shirt, approached A’ja with a nervous smile. The girl was shorter than the table A’ja was sitting behind, so the 6-5 forward leaned over and pulled the girl up so she could kneel on the table while the two took a photo. When the girl handed A’ja a dollar bill to sign, A’ja asked why, and the girl responded, “Because you’re number one.”
· After a deaf woman approached the table, A’ja smiled and graciously showed her the sign language motion for “I love you” she has tattooed on her neck.
· One woman shared that she, like A’ja, has dyslexia, and A’ja offered a few words of support.
Maybe it’s not known nationally, but A’ja Wilson is just as good of a person as she is a basketball player — maybe even better.
On Monday in a piece published by The Players’ Tribune, Wilson detailed an experience she had as a little girl with racism and specifically reached out to little black girls who may be experiencing now what she once did.
It was no surprise that the basketball community and dads with young black girls responded with overwhelming support.
Here are several: