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Aces win Las Vegas’ first major league sports championship

Updated September 19, 2022 - 2:11 pm

The Las Vegas Aces have won the WNBA championship. History has been made.

The Aces are the first team from Las Vegas to claim a major league professional sports title, the result of a 78-71 victory over the Connecticut Sun on Sunday.

Las Vegas won the best-of-five finals series 3-1.

It’s a landmark achievement on the local sports scene. The city welcomed its first major pro team just five years ago in the Golden Knights, who nearly became the first to win a championship, falling in the Stanley Cup finals to Washington in their first season.

But the Aces closed the deal. They were led on the bench by first-year coach Becky Hammon, whose modern-day style of basketball — spread the floor, share the ball and embrace any open 3-pointer — fit perfectly into a team of versatile players.

Hammon would win WNBA Coach of the Year. She also played for the franchise between 2007-14 when it was based in San Antonio, Texas.

The Aces were led on the court by the league’s Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year A’ja Wilson, whose skill at both ends firmly established her as one of the world’s best players.

The franchise was founded in Salt Lake City and began its journey as the Utah Starzz in 1997. It moved to San Antonio in 2003 and became the Silver Stars and then the Stars. It then relocated to Las Vegas prior to the 2018 season and plays out of Michelob Ultra Arena.

It previously reached the finals in 2008 and 2020, losing both times.

Raiders owner Mark Davis purchased the team from MGM Resorts in 2021, from the beginning championing better working conditions and pay for all WNBA players.

“These women can be such value to our community as a whole,” Davis said. “Get them working with kids and at clinics and making enough money so they don’t have to also go over to Europe to play.

“Did I see winning a championship when I (purchased the team)? I was hoping.”

He got his wish Sunday.

It was the culmination of an impressive run through the playoff bracket by the Aces as a top seed. They first swept Phoenix in a best-of-three quarterfinal series and then needed four games to oust Seattle in a best-of-five semifinal before facing the Sun.

Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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