LV Weekly

The Aces’ thrilling success leaves a major-league impact on Las Vegas

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The championship celebration was also one to remember.
Photo: Steve Marcus

Las Vegas Aces championship apparel at this particular big box store inside the Galleria at Sunset mall was mostly unavailable. Residents had already bought all the shirts, hoodies, cups and whatever else was being sold within a few days of our city’s professional women’s basketball team winning its second straight WNBA title.

It’s another example of the powerful love affair between the city and its team. We can’t get enough of our champs.

The Aces averaged a league-best 9,551 fans per game this season—many youth and teen girls cheering for their favorite players—to mark a 66% increase over last season. And when it came time for the WNBA Finals against the New York Liberty, there was a sellout crowd for both home games.

Thankfully, there was no need for a third home game in the series, as the injury-depleted Aces only allowed 46 points over the final three quarters of Game 4 on October 18 in a defensive masterpiece at New York in the series-clinching win.

It was vintage Las Vegas Aces basketball in showing the grit and determination that makes the team so darn likable and fun to cheer for. Starters Chelsea Gray and Kiah Stokes had foot injuries and couldn’t play, meaning coach Becky Hammon—one of the sport’s best, regardless of league—had to tinker with the rotation in moving reserve Cayla George into the starting lineup.

The 34-year-old George, who averaged 2.3 points and 1.8 rebounds during the regular season, became the unsung hero with 11 points and four rebounds over 30 minutes. That was enough to supplement another epic performance from A’ja Wilson, who had 24 points and 16 rebounds in reaffirming her label as the WNBA’s best player. New York’s Breanna Stewart narrowly won the MVP vote during the regular season, which further motivated Wilson to beat Stewart in the postseason.

Wilson, who this season became the fastest player in league history to reach 3,500 career points, 1,500 rebounds and 300 blocks, is one of the great ambassadors of the team in our community. That’s especially true when it comes to paving the way for young girls to enjoy sports, because they all want to be like A’ja.

She’s always smiling and having fun, whether that’s the pure jubilation after winning the championship or dancing around ahead of games to whatever music is blasting over the speakers at Michelob Ultra Arena. It shows a younger generation that participating in sports is enjoyable, whether you are one of the world’s notable players or someone competing in a city recreation league.

“We fought through so much adversity throughout the season,” Wilson said postgame on ESPN. “I can’t express just how proud I am of my teammates. They picked me up when I was down. We cried together, and now we’re poppin’ Champagne together.”

Back home in Las Vegas, we were also partying.

In our town, you don’t have to play for the Golden Knights or Raiders to be plastered on highway billboards or a casino marquee, or have young children wear your jersey. And most importantly, when there’s a championship to be won, if you are wearing Las Vegas across your chest, there’s a community of 2.3 million strong pulling for you.

Many of us headed to the Strip October 23 for the championship celebration, where you couldn’t help but notice the number of young girls with homemade signs, Wilson jerseys and gigantic smiles.

Some will say the back-to-back championships are what makes the Aces successful. That’s not the only reason.

The Aces have been a home run in our community since relocating here in 2018 because they have shown a younger generation of girls the value of competing. The Aces are heroes and role models to countless youngsters.

Sports are designed for everyone to have a chance to compete and thrive while playing. You don’t have to be a world-class athlete to have teammates, look forward to attending practice or have someone cheer for you. You don’t have to play at an arena on the Strip in a nationally televised competition to make a basket in a game.

That’s why adults spend their weeknights competing in bowling and softball leagues, even if it means applying creams to sore muscles and wearing a few braces to keep their bodies from falling apart.

That’s why local parks and gyms are packed with children playing sports, because like the Aces, we desire the thrill of competition and memories of being part of a team.

The Aces this season certainly gave us more than our share of memories in posting a 34-6 record for the best finish in WNBA history. They’ll be favored to do it again next season, which would make them only the second three-peat champions in league history—and cause another rush at the mall for championship swag.

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Ray Brewer, a proud local, has been part of Greenspun Media Group since the mid-1990s. He’s covered high school and ...

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