After posting multiple losing seasons from 2013-2018, the Las Vegas Aces received three straight number one overall draft picks. The franchise gradually constructed a playoff team that completed their 2022 campaign on Sunday, September 18, by defeating the Connecticut Sun 78-71 in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals. The victory marked the Aces clinching the series 3 games to 1, and winning their first title in franchise history.
Former six-time WNBA All-Star and current Las Vegas Aces coach, Becky Hammon, became the first head coach in WNBA history to win a title in her debut season. In the series-clinching victory, the Aces unleashed their usual well-balanced attack that was led by guard Chelsea Gray’s 20 points and the league MVP A’ja Wilson’s 11 points and 14 rebounds. In addition to her sharpshooting, Chelsea Gray also contributed 6 assists, and her series scoring average of 18 points per game earned her WNBA Finals MVP honors.
The series’ final game was a back-and-forth affair, but Las Vegas seemed to be controlling the tempo. With 3:01 left to go, Connecticut scored six consecutive points to tie the game at 67-67. After a Las Vegas turnover, Connecticut guard Courtney Williams hit a shot to give Connecticut a 69-67 lead. Las Vegas came storming back when Riquna Williams caught fire, as she hit back-to-back three-point shots and a step-back jumper that gave Las Vegas a 71-75 lead.
After a Connecticut turnover, Kelsey Plum added a mid-range jumper to stretch the lead to 71-77 with 25 seconds left to go in the game. Jackie Young added a free throw point to seal the victory by the score of 71-78. “You see it. You see it. This is what we’re building. This is what we’re doing. This is it. I’m so happy right now,” A’ja Wilson stated during the Las Vegas Aces on-court celebration.
“They’re unbelievable on the court, but they’re unbelievable humans, first and foremost. They care about each other. They invest in each other. It’s been an absolute honor to be their coach. I saw excellence, and I wanted to be a part of it,” Hammon said. In addition to praising her players, Hammon also paid tribute to former Aces coach Bill Laimbeer who was on the floor for the celebration. “He put this team together and saw the pieces,” Hammon stated.
Mark Davis is the owner of the NFL team, the Las Vegas Raiders, but he skipped their Sunday game to go to Connecticut to support his basketball team, the Las Vegas Aces. Davis’s decision afforded him the chance to watch his basketball team win a championship. The proud team owner joined the team for the on-court championship celebration. Davis got the opportunity to hoist the trophy, and then he took the mic to address the Vegas fans who were at home watching. “I just want to say to the greatest fans in professional sports, Las Vegas, we are world champions!”
The 2022 WNBA Champions arrived back home in Las Vegas early Monday morning, and Aces team President Nikki Fargas addressed the media. “I mean we’re the best team in the world-hands down. There is no question about that and we’re located here in Las Vegas. For this community to embrace this team the way it has in a short period of time, we are just so appreciative,” Fargas stated. A celebration parade will be held for the newly crowned champs on the Las Vegas strip on Tuesday, September 20, at 5:30 p.m.
Read other sports and entertainment news and interviews by Vince Smith.