The procession traveled only a block down the Las Vegas Strip — from Caesars Palace to a stage set up across from the Bellagio fountains. But it was the culmination of a 117-year journey for a city deprived of its own professional sports team until 2017.
The Las Vegas Aces brought Las Vegas its first major-league championship ever on Sunday, when they beat the Connecticut Sun 78-71 in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals in Phoenix. And two days later, they paraded the trophy through an exuberant hometown crowd to prove it. Thousands of screaming revelers lined Las Vegas Boulevard in full Aces gear for the celebration.
At a rally that shut down the Strip on Tuesday evening, Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson, center, celebrates with her team the first professional championship ever won by a Las Vegas sports team. The Aces beat the Connecticut Sun in the WNBA Finals on Sunday. (Image: lasvegassun.com)
The Aces made a grand entrance on their double-decker tour bus. Team forward and 2022 WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson held the trophy high as her teammates and team owner Mark Davis looked on with pride.
“Las Vegas, I can’t thank you enough for how much you rallied behind myself and my teammates,” Wilson said from the stage. “We did this one for y’all. I’ve got some of the best teammates in the world. I mean that.”
Almost Only Counts in Horseshoes
Before the Aces, only the Vegas Golden Knights came close to clinching the top honor for Sin City in a professional sport, getting as far as the Stanley Cup Finals at the end of their inaugural season in 2018.
“It took a group of women to bring the first championship to Las Vegas,” said Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, who declared it “Las Vegas Aces Day” in the state and also presented the team with a key to the Las Vegas Strip.
“We are so proud of these ladies for what they did — not just on the court but off the court,” Sisolak said. “They are role models for our community.”
Only the Beginning
The push to attract major league sports teams to Las Vegas began in earnest with an unsuccessful bid for the Montreal Expos in 2004. Working against Las Vegas at the time was the presence of legalized sports betting, which was frowned upon by many league commissioners. Questions also surfaced about whether Las Vegas’ 1.6 million population was enough to support a major-league sports franchise.
In the 18 years since, all such questions about Las Vegas have evaporated. Las Vegas’ population has doubled, and the Golden Knights have played to packed houses since 2017 — and the Las Vegas Raiders since 2021 — without a sports betting scandal.
Talks are currently underway to land teams from the NBA, MLB, and MLS. But whatever amazing championship trophies athletes will bring home to Las Vegas in the future, the Aces will always be the first to have done it.
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