LAS VEGAS — Erica Wheeler hoped to make her All-Star debut an unforgettable one. She certainly did, walking away with an MVP award.
Wheeler, the first undrafted player to debut in the league since 2003 to earn an All-Star spot, scored 25 points and led Team Wilson to a 129-126 victory over Team Delle Donne on Saturday. The Indiana Fever guard teared up as she accepted the MVP award.
“To me it was to make my mark and I think I did that,” said Wheeler, who was one of six first-time All-Stars. “I’m a no-name and left today with a name that everyone can remember.”
Her fellow All-Stars also were nearly as emotional, knowing what Wheeler went through to even make the league.
“I was crying my eyes out,” said team captain A’ja Wilson, the Las Vegas Aces forward who couldn’t play because of an injured right ankle. “It’s real moments like that that people don’t see. That’s what it’s all about.”
With the event in Las Vegas, it was a star-studded event. NBA player Chris Paul was sitting courtside, as was Kobe Bryant. Bryant was a few seats over from Sue Bird and her girlfriend Megan Rapinoe, who led the U.S. women’s soccer team to the World Cup title this month.
Photo: Ethan Miller / Getty Images
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Las Vegas certainly put on a show with members of Cirque du Soleil performing while the All-Stars were being introduced. Blue Man Group was going throughout the crowd spraying streamers.
In the game, Phoenix’s Brittney Griner had an All-Star record three dunks, including an impressive two-handed jam where she hung on the rim over Aces center Liz Cambage.
Team Wilson built a 14-point halftime lead behind Wheeler, who hit her first six shots — all 3-pointers.
DeWanna Bonner rallied Team Delle Donne in the third quarter, scoring 11 points in the period to get it within 10. The team cut it to three with 41.5 seconds left on Nneka Ogwumike’s jumper. Wheeler responded as the shot clock was winding down, hitting a 3-pointer from the top of the key. She did a dance on the other end to celebrate.
The 255 combined points are the most in WNBA All-Star history.
Doug Feinberg is an Associated Press writer.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Erica-Wheeler-leads-Team-Wilson-to-win-at-WNBA-14190828.php.