Erica Wheeler wins WNBA All-Star Game MVP as Team Wilson tops Team Delle Donne, 129-126

Photo Credit: Lamar Carter

When thinking about who would possibly win this year’s All-Star Game MVP, it may have been commonplace to think Elena Delle Donne or A’ja Wilson (before she got injured and couldn’t play) or even Liz Cambage, Sylvia Fowles, Jonquel Jones or Brittney Griner.

The Indiana Fever’s Erica Wheeler had other plans.

By virtue of scoring 25 points off the bench, dishing out seven assists and going seven for 13 from behind the three-point arc, Wheeler willed Team Wilson to a 129-126 win at the 2019 WNBA All-Star Game from Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.

The first thing I said to myself was like, ‘Mom, thank you.’ Because more than ever I know she’s watching me, and like I tell everybody, what I do and how I do it, I do it for my mom. So that’s the first thing I said was thank you, and I said, ‘Thank you, God,’ because without him, I’m not here.

–Erica Wheeler, Indiana Fever

Fittingly, it was her 3-pointer with 22 seconds remaining on the clock that proved to be the game-deciding bucket for Team Wilson. Wheeler was the only undrafted participant in this year’s All-Star Game and she acknowledged that she had something to prove.

My confidence was through the roof because I had a chip on my shoulder. I knew I was the only undrafted player. I don’t have a shoe contract. I don’t have no contracts besides the WNBA.

–Erica Wheeler, Indiana Fever

My confidence is through the roof. I don’t know how high this roof is, but it’s past this roof. (laughter)

–Erica Wheeler, Indiana Fever

Wheeler also shot nine of 17 overall from the field and hauled in three rebounds.

Heading into the game, all Wheeler heard from her peers was that she belonged on that stage with the game’s best and brightest stars. Persevering through a college career where her mother died of cancer to becoming the first-ever undrafted All-Star Game MVP, Wheeler says she’s an example of a never-give-up mindset.

If you go in the dictionary and they say never give up, I think they should put Erica Wheeler because of the path I went.

Wheeler was part of a Wilson team where its namesake was practically one of the two grand marshals for the weekend’s festivities. Wilson thanked her hometown fans for providing an unforgettable, electric atmosphere and says Las Vegas should definitely be on the list to host again.

And I think we should have it here every year. I don’t think I have a say in it, but just the feel of it. Everyone kind of was here.

–A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces

One of the elements to this year’s All-Star Game that differentiated from previous years was the experimentation with a 20-second shot clock as opposed to the traditional 24. In addition to that, they added an NHL-esque substitution rule where each team will be allowed once per quarter to have a player sub on offense. It could only made by the team on offense and a player could not substitute for whoever had the ball.

Elena Delle Donne was on the receiving end of that rule as she was subbed in the first half for Courtney Vandersloot of the Chicago Sky. Delle Donne liked the rule for the All-Star Game, but believes what happens at All-Star should stay at All-Star.

I definitely don’t want to see it in regular games. There was one time Sylvia Fowles came out of nowhere and got a rebound, and I was like, ‘When did you get in the game?’

–Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics

The last two years, the All-Star Game was held in tandem with the 3-point contest at halftime. This year, it took place during All-Star Friday night, in which Shekinna Stricklen out-treyed the Aces’ Kayla McBride 23-22. This year, it was held in tandem with what could be called an impromptu slam dunk contest. Brittney Griner threw down three – all in the first half.

I think everybody would have killed me, honestly, if I didn’t dunk, so the whole week everybody was like, dunk, dunk, make sure you dunk. So I was just trying to think about it a little bit more and was able to throw a couple down today.

–Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury

Jonquel Jones and Liz Cambage slammed one home to close out the last two All-Star Games in Seattle and Minnesota, respectively. The three dunks are an All-Star record.

With Wilson injured, the Chicago Sky’s Allie Quigley assumed the starting role in her stead. It just so happened that with Vandersloot, her wife, donning a Team Delle Donne uniform that the two were on opposite teams. This meant she scored a few on her wife.

…She was talking a lot of mess during the week about how she was going to lock me up on defense, so I had to take my opportunity and prove to her who’s the boss.

–Allie Quigley, Chicago Sky

I said ‘sorry’ a couple times, too.

In the end, the story was Wheeler and how her arduous journey to this occasion made all of the sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears worth it.

It’s the epitome of what we all fight for, and to have moments like that. So it was really great to see her shine in that moment, and it’s kind of crazy how everything works out and it comes full circle, and I think you saw that today.

–Kayla McBride, Las Vegas Aces

The game itself was a slam dunk contest courtesy of Griner and a three-point contest courtesy of Team Wilson, which drained an All-Star Game record 21 treys, including Wheeler’s seven.

The scoring started as Delle Donne lobbed one to Jones. Speaking of three-pointers, let’s not lose sight of the fact that Cambage can drain a few from downtown too just because she’s a big.

Team Wilson dropped 77 points in the first half and led team Delle Donne 77-63 at halftime.

Team Delle Donne outscored Team Wilson in the third and fourth quarters, but would come up short on the comeback trail thanks to Wheeler’s triple.

Not only did Wheeler’s 25 win her All-Star Game MVP, she led all scorers. Natasha Howard and Allie Quigley each scored 14 points. Sylvia Fowles concluded the game one rebound shy of a double-double with 12 points and nine boards. Chelsea Gray sent out 10 assists. McBride as well as Diamond DeShields had 13 points and Odyssey Sims added 10.

Nneka Ogwumike led the charge for Team Delle Donne with 22 points. Kristi Toliver added 16 points as well as nine assists with Brittney Griner contributing 16 points with nine rebounds. Kia Nurse also chimed in with 15 points as well. Jonquel Jones and DeWanna Bonner each scored 13 with the Sun forward and center grabbing 13 rebounds.