‘I still can’t believe it’: Gamecock hoops legend Wilson in awe of statue

Updated: Jan. 18, 2021 at 9:31 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Julie Rotblatt-Amrany called A’ja Wilson’s statue “Shoot for the Stars.”

The bronze sculpture outside of Colonial Life Arena, which was publicly unveiled during a ceremony at the arena on Monday, shows the former South Carolina women’s basketball star leaping through the air as she takes a shot.

While the statue captures the reigning WNBA MVP in her element on the court as a Gamecock, it’s something that still leaves her in awe.

“Even when President [Harris] Pastides said it at graduation, it still didn’t seem real,” Wilson said. “I was just like, ‘Okay, whatever. This is just a joke.’ You know how things get out all the time. But then, when I actually saw the mold of it, I’m like, ‘Wow,’ and when I saw the donations, I’m like, ‘Oh, this is coming to life. This is about to be real.’ To finally see it out there and to cut the ribbon, I still can’t believe it.”

Wilson’s statue was brought to life by Rotblatt-Amrany, who said she watched hours of footage and scanned hundreds of photos to capture the essence of Wilson to create this work of art. Rotblatt-Amrany even met Wilson in Chicago as part of the creative process.

“There are a couple of things that are really crucial,” Rotblatt-Amrany said. “One is obviously the likeness of the figure that you’re sculpting. It’s numero uno. The second thing is that you achieve a movement in the piece so that you actually feel like the bronze is way up in the air and flying and you can feel the muscles tensing and the reality of being an athlete so the observer kind of jumps in the skin of the athlete.”

“I saw it in Chicago at NBA All-Star [Weekend] and I was just like, ‘Wow, that’s me, but I don’t know if that’s really me,” Wilson said. “And when I actually saw it, I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s my facial expression, that’s my hair,’ and it’s just truly amazing to just see that all pan out. You see statues all the time. I’ve seen a bunch of statues, but when it’s one of you, you’re like ‘Oh my God! That is how my mouth looks when I shoot a basketball.’ It’s pretty amazing to see that.”

The statue was publicly unveiled on Monday, which is also recognized as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The irony of the unveiling on this day is something that Wilson takes tremendous pride in.

“I’m kind of still numb to it honestly,” Wilson said. “Of course, this is a day that we recognize the great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and, to have something like this be brought to light today, it’s definitely an honor.”

Wilson admitted that’s it’s special to her knowing she has a statue to honor her accomplishments at South Carolina at the age of 24. It’s something that she believes her grandmother, who wasn’t allowed to walk on the University of South Carolina’s campus as a young woman, would certainly be proud of. But she also believes it sends a message to younger generations who are following in her footsteps.

“It goes to show you just plant seeds,” she said. “That’s what it’s all about and that’s something that we stood by last year in the bubble. Angel McCoughtry actually brought that to light to me. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but you want to be a part of something that plants seeds so later on down the road, little Black girls can come back and look at that statue and say she was her but at the same time, she was in her community as well. I think that’s the beauty of it all and I’m taking it all with grace, hopefully. It’s just truly a blessing and, for it to fall on MLK Day is just something that’s just truly special to me.”

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