Updated October 24, 2023 - 9:42 am
Standing in Toshiba Plaza wearing a backwards A’ja Wilson jersey and a plastic goat mask, Aces fan David Martin hopes people know they’re watching history.
“I want everyone to know this is the GOAT,” Martin said. “(Wilson) means so much to us.”
Aces coach Becky Hammon said Wilson will end up being the greatest WNBA player of all time. Owner Mark Davis called Hammon the greatest basketball coach in the world, all while several thousand raucous Aces fans screamed their approval.
“Super thankful to be part of this franchise,” Wilson said. “They really take care of us. Y’all know that first ring was nice, so we already know that second one about to be blinging.”
Fans were officially invited to begin congregating in Toshiba Plaza at 3 p.m., two hours before the celebration was scheduled to begin. Yet a sizable crowd had already gathered long before, with some fans stating they’d arrived as early as 12:30 p.m., taking a day off from work to make sure they staked their claim to a good spot close to the stage.
There were several amenities in the plaza. Along with a stage, the team also set up a pop-up shop and invited local food trucks and vendors to participate. A red carpet lined the path from the street, where the buses dropped off players and Aces staff, to the stage.
The line to buy merchandise from the pop-up shop was approximately 87-people long more than an hour before the event.
Buses began to arrive at Toshiba Plaza at 5:15 p.m., led by a police and lowrider escort. Players and the coaching staff arrived on the final bus around 5:30 p.m. The crowd also swelled as fans who’d watched along the parade route found places to watch the proceedings on the stage.
Public address announcer Chet Buchanan hosted the event, introducing the Aces players, coaches and front office staff. Davis spoke first, praising Fargas, Williams and Hammon for building the team into a juggernaut.
“Las Vegas,” Davis said, “We are still world champions.”
Fargas promised the team will be back in a year’s time celebrating a third championship, causing chants of “Three-peat” to echo around the plaza. Williams then thanked the fans for supporting the team all season.
The Aces led the WNBA in attendance in 2023, averaging 9,551 fans per game and set a Las Vegas franchise record after 17,406 fans attended the season finale at T-Mobile arena against the Phoenix Mercury on Sept. 10.
Hammon spoke next, and while she handed the microphone off to reserve guard Sydney Colson at one point, the Aces coach made sure to praise the character of her players.
“I don’t have enough adjectives to describe their grit, their determination,” Hammon said. “These are some of the finest human beings on the planet.
“And they just happen to be sick-ass basketball players.”
Each player on the Aces addressed the crowd after Hammon. Sixth Player of the Year Alysha Clark said she’d never have made it through the season without the support of the team and the fans, then dedicated the championship to her father Duane Clark, who died in September, 2022.
All-Star guard Kelsey Plum called the Aces a real family, which has been there for her during a difficult year as her husband, former Raiders tight end Darren Waller, plays across the country for the New York Giants. All-Star wing Jackie Young didn’t say much but wore a shirt which read, “I’m silent but my rings loud.”
Three-time champion Chelsea Gray’s celebratory tour de force included calling out the media member who gave A’ja Wilson a fourth-place vote and New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu’s “night-night” celebration. Several Aces players wore T-shirts which read “Aces vs. Everybody.” Wilson spoke last, again thanking fans for their support.
“At the end of the day,” Wilson said, “we got the ring and that’s what matters.”