The Las Vegas Aces were given a heroine’s welcome by thousands of fans in Vegas on Tuesday after winning their first ever WNBA title.
The championship parade started at Caesars Palace and ended at a stage in front of the fountain at the Bellagio. The celebrations were led by 2022 WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson who was pictured on the post-parade stage with the trophy in one hand and a bottle of champagne in the other.
On Sunday, the Aces beat the Connecticut Sun in Game 4 of the Finals to clinch the first major professional sports championship for the city of Las Vegas.
“Las Vegas, I can’t thank you enough for how much you rallied behind myself and my teammates, we did this one for y’all,” Wilson said at the event. “I’ve got some of the best teammates in the world. I mean that.”
And the fans truly did up. The rally attracted so much attention that the Strip had to be closed to vehicles after only initially planning to shut down southbound traffic.
Despite having such strong connections to sport, Sin City has only had a major professional franchise in the city since the NHL’s Golden Knights came to Vegas in 2017.
Franchises have generally been hesitant to move to a city which is world famous for sports betting. That, coupled with the city having a 2020 population of only 653,000, meant no team had taken a chance on Las Vegas until the hockey franchise came to town.
The Aces moved to Nevada in 2018 and they were joined by the NFL’s Raiders who moved from Oakland to Las Vegas in 2020.
But the city was deprived of a championship-winning side until Sunday when the Aces, the first seed in the playoffs, banished their demons to win in Connecticut.
The star-studded side had come close in recent years, reaching the final in 2020 where they were swept by the Seattle Storm and falling in the semifinals last year in an excruciating Game 5 loss at home to the Phoenix Mercury.
The celebrations were all the sweeter for it. Head coach Becky Hammon – who became the first head coach in WNBA history to win a title in her first year as a head coach – was impressed by the turnout.
“I’m new to the desert and I didn’t know you were going to show out like this,” Hammon said. “But I’m learning.”
She was joined in celebrating the fans by Nevada governor Steve Sisolak who gave the Aces a key to the Las Vegas Strip as well as declaring Tuesday Las Vegas Aces Day in the state.
“It is incredible; these women deserve it so much,” Sisolak said. “They’re great leaders on the court, but off the court, they’re an inspiration to every young person, especially young women who now know that if they can dream it, it can come true.”
Wilson was not able to fulfill her post-series promise of water skiing across the fountain at the Bellagio, but the regular season MVP and her teammates have won the hearts of their city and will go down as history makers.