By Alasdair Howorth, CNN
The Las Vegas Aces were treated like heroes by thousands of Vegas fans Tuesday after winning their first WNBA title.
The championship parade began at Caesars Palace and ended on a stage in front of the Bellagio’s fountain. The celebrations were led by 2022 WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson, who was pictured on stage after the parade with the trophy in one hand and a bottle of champagne in the other.
On Sunday, the Aces defeated the Connecticut Sun in Game 4 of the Finals to win the first major professional sports championship for the city of Las Vegas.
“Las Vegas, I can’t thank you enough for standing behind me and my teammates. We did that for you all,” Wilson said at the event. “I have some of the best teammates in the world. I mean that.”
And the fans really nailed it. The rally garnered so much attention that the Strip had to be closed to vehicles after originally only planning to halt southbound traffic.
Despite Sin City having such strong ties to sports, the city has only had a major professional franchise since the NHL’s Golden Knights came to Vegas in 2017.
Franchises have generally been reluctant to move to a city that is world famous for sports betting. Coupled with the city’s 2020 population of just 653,000, it meant that no team in Las Vegas took a chance until the hockey franchise came to town.
The Aces relocated to Nevada in 2018 and were joined by the NFL’s Raiders, who relocated from Oakland to Las Vegas in 2020.
But the city was robbed of a championship-winning team 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 finals in 2020 where they were swept away by the Seattle Storm and falling into the semis last year with an agonizing loss in Game 5 at home to Phoenix Mercury.
The celebrations were all the sweeter for that. Head Coach Becky Hammon—who became the first head coach in WNBA history to win a title in her freshman year as head coach—was impressed with the turnout.
“I’m new to the desert and didn’t know you’d show up like this,” Hammon said. “But I am learning.”
She was joined in the celebration by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, who presented the Aces with a key to the Las Vegas Strip and declared Las Vegas Aces Day in the state on Tuesday.
“It’s incredible; these women deserve it so much,” Sisolak said. “They are great leaders on the pitch, but off the pitch they are an inspiration to every young person, especially young women who now know it can come true if they can dream it.”
Wilson didn’t make good on her post-series promise to waterski the fountain at the Bellagio, but the regular-season MVP and her teammates won the hearts of their town and will go down as history-makers.
The CNN Wire
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