The city of Las Vegas does not need a reason to party. However, the Las Vegas Aces have given everyone a reason to get extra excited because on Sunday, the team brought Sin City its first-ever major league sports title by winning the 2022 WNBA championship.
The Aces defeated the Connecticut Sun in a fiercely contested Game 4 that went back and forth right until the last minute. Vegas won the game 78-71, taking the series 3-1.
Despite another triple-double from Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas, who had 11 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, the Sun were not able to overcome Las Vegas’ multi-faceted offense. While they held 2022 MVP A’ja Wilson to just 11 points, Riquana Williams came off the bench with 17, including two crucial three-pointers that sealed the game and the championship for her team.
Finishing off the season the way she’s played all year, Vegas point guard Chelsea Gray led all scorers with 20 points. On her way to being named the 2022 WNBA Finals MVP, she also had six assists, five rebounds and was nearly 70 percent in field goal shooting.
“We didn’t like that feeling we had last year,” Gray said in an on-court interview with ESPN’s Holly Rowe after the game. “It was a tough moment, but it built character. It was setting something up for the following year.”
This is the first win for the franchise, which is a league original. It started as the Utah Starzz in 1997, then became the San Antonio Silver Stars in 2003, where Aces head coach Becky Hammon played when they made the Finals in 2008. As the Las Vegas Aces they once again made the Finals in 2020, getting swept by the Seattle Storm.
For several seasons now, WNBA fans have been waiting for the Aces to get over that last hurdle. Pairing talented point guard Gray with superstar Wilson seemed to be the missing piece, but it still wasn’t enough for the Aces to grab that elusive title. Bringing in Hammon as head coach and paying her $1 million was seen as a bold move, but obviously it worked out, because she’s now the first rookie coach to win a WNBA championship, as well as the first former player to coach a team to a title.
Now that they’ve gotten that first title out of the way, Las Vegas is looking to come back even stronger next season, as the core group are all set to return, including two-time WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby, who missed the postseason with a knee injury.
“It’s a commitment to wanting to keep a group together,” Gray said, per ESPN. “You think about the teams in the past who kept a core group together, like Minnesota or Phoenix or Seattle, it’s a commitment to excellence and wanting to leave a legacy.”
Since it’s where all the gambling happens, Las Vegas was long considered not suitable for pro sports. The WNBA was the first major league to take a chance on the city, so it’s fitting that the Aces are the first team to bring a title to the town. Being the first major team in the city has given the Aces one of the most loyal fanbases in the league. They show up loud and ready for every game, which is pretty amazing in a city where there’s literally always something happening.
Per Las Vegas CBS affiliate 8 News Now, the Aces will hold their championship rally on Tuesday on the Las Vegas Strip, with a stage set up in front of the iconic Bellagio fountain. The festivities are set to begin at 5:30 p.m. PT, and will probably last all week because you know Vegas is going all out for its first championship.