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Gordon: Aces set lofty standard for pro sports in Las Vegas

Updated October 24, 2023 - 12:36 pm

The constricting construction on and around the Las Vegas Strip couldn’t deter thousands of Aces supporters from gathering Monday night outside T-Mobile Arena to celebrate the back-to-back WNBA champions.

The city belongs to the Aces.

The Aces — and their championships — belong to the city.

The franchise’s second championship parade and rally at Toshiba Plaza served to strengthen its deepening connection to Las Vegas, where the championship standard it set in conjunction with Golden Knights and their Stanley Cup is permeating the professional sporting scene.

Together in the last 13 months they’ve delivered the city three major championship celebrations, this one buoyed by coach Becky Hammon’s braggadocio — plus a few four-letter words and a fervent love the Aces and their faithful share for one another.

“We’ve got the greatest fans in the world,” point guard Chelsea Gray said from atop the stage, echoing several of her teammates and garnering a rousing response in the process.

“The league? They done messed up and let us win again. … I’m going to talk my (expletive) ‘cause we won.”

A dynasty in the desert

Las Vegas loves a winner and the Aces are exactly that, transforming in five years from the WNBA’s perennial cellar dweller in San Antonio into a budding dynasty in the desert.

As they’ve evolved, their fans have, too — filling to the gills Michelob Ultra Arena on an increasingly regular basis and often lining courtside seats with some of the biggest stars in sports and entertainment.

The Aces credited their supporters and their enthusiasm for increasing their homecourt advantage; they’re 45-9 in regular-season home games the last three seasons.

“I believe that we have the best fans — not just in the WNBA, but in the world,” reserve guard Sydney Colson said, for they appreciate greatness and have learned to expect it like the players they cheered Monday for the final time this season.

Speaking of which, the Aces didn’t hide on Monday their unmitigated desire for a third consecutive championship.

Franchise cornerstones A’ja Wilson, Jackie Young, Kelsey Plum and Gray are under contract in 2024 — along with super-sub turned spot starter Alysha Clark, who found out during her first season with the Aces how special basketball in the city can be.

Said Clark, an 11-year veteran and three-time WNBA champion: “I’ve been around this thing a long time. A long time. … But I am so grateful to walk in every single day and love coming to work with each and every person I’m sitting up here with.”

Said Plum with pride and a stogie in hand: “I’m so grateful for this group because we’re a family and we got through it it together. I don’t have much to say other than, we’re just going to keep coming it back and everyone hates it.”

‘Best fans in the world’

Expect another parade next season and the season after that if their core stays together. Their owner, Mark Davis, is committed to championship standards.

If only they also applied to the Silver and Black.

Said Davis through a grin with a white Aces championship cap atop his head: “We’ve got the best fans in the world. You showed up every night out there at Mandalay Bay … and we had the largest crowds WNBA this year. You helped us win this championship and we expect to see ya’ll back next year.”

Undoubtedly, he will.

Contact Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on X.

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