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‘Just win’: Aces unveil championship banner, crush Sparks

Updated May 30, 2023 - 6:42 pm

Standing between the WNBA championship trophy and league commissioner Cathy Engelbert, Aces and Raiders owner Mark Davis reflected on advice from his father ahead of the team’s banner ceremony Saturday.

He said Al Davis, the legendary former Raiders owner, used to say there were five steps to creating a winning organization.

“First, you get great players,” Davis said. “Then you get great coaches. Then you’ve got to build an organization around them. Then you get the greatest fans in the world.”

After that, Davis said there’s only one thing left.

“Just win,” he said.

The Aces unveiled a banner honoring their 2022 WNBA championship in front of a franchise-record 10,191 fans at Michelob Ultra Arena ahead of their 93-65 rout of the Los Angeles Sparks. Players, coaches and staff also received their championship rings.

Reigning WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson led the Aces (3-0) with 23 points in the victory over the Sparks (1-2). She addressed the crowd before the game.

“We couldn’t be able to wear these rings if it wasn’t for y’all,” Wilson said.

It was a day of celebration for the Aces, who won the 2022 WNBA Finals by defeating the Connecticut Sun 3-1 to claim the first title in franchise history.

After a video tribute to the championship season played on the jumbotron, Davis, Engelbert and the championship trophy came to halfcourt.

Engelbert congratulated the franchise — one of just two founding WNBA organizations that hadn’t won a championship before last season — for winning its first title, along with the 2022 Commissioner’s Cup championship. She also commended the team for winning Las Vegas’ first major league professional championship, which earned a huge fist pump from Davis beside her.

After Davis’ brief speech, he presented the players with their rings, beginning with the coaching staff before proceeding to the players, including former Aces guard Aisha Sheppard, who was waived before this season.

Created by Jason of Beverly Hills, who previously produced championship rings for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers and the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, the Aces’ rings feature 561 diamonds — 507 in white and 54 in black — totaling 11 carats set on white gold.

The rings also include players’ names, numbers and positions on the side of the ring, a diamond-encrusted trophy and 26 special-cut diamonds to represent the Aces’ 26 wins in the 26th WNBA season. The top design of the ring features the Aces’ logo superimposed on a basketball.

The Aces’ championship banner was revealed next to coach Becky Hammon’s retired jersey. It features the team’s logo on a white background with the names of all the players from the 2022 roster along the border.

Hammon said she didn’t know her jersey was going to be right next to the banner, but said she’s already expecting more jerseys and championships will join them in the rafters.

“They need some neighbors,” she said.

Former Aces wing Dearica Hamby, who was controversially traded to the Sparks during the offseason while pregnant, was also given her ring before the game. She was announced to a huge ovation from Aces fans — only bettered by the applause for Wilson — and gave a long hug to Davis before posing for pictures with her daughter Amaya.

Hamby didn’t stick around to take photos with the Aces after the ceremony, instead returning to the locker room with the rest of the Sparks.

“It was a great moment for us to share with her,” Wilson said. “We don’t win that ring without (Hamby). I’m saying that because it’s true. It’s very great she can share that moment with her two children and her mom and her sister there. It was really good to see her.”

Hammon returned to the sideline after serving her two-game suspension for violating league and team workplace policies regarding the treatment of Hamby.

The Aces play again Sunday, hosting the Minnesota Lynx at 6 p.m.

“Today in Las Vegas,” Davis said, “we are the world champions.”

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.

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