Las Vegas Aces celebrate WNBA title in style with championship parade on the Strip




CNN

The Las Vegas Aces were given a hero’s welcome by thousands of fans in Vegas on Tuesday after winning their first WNBA title.

The championship parade began at Caesars Palace and ended on a stage in front of the Bellagio fountain. The celebration was led by 2022 WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson, who was pictured on stage after the parade with the trophy in one hand and a bottle of champagne in the other.

On Sunday, the Aces beat the Connecticut Sun in Game 4 of the Finals to capture the city of Las Vegas’ first major professional sports championship.

“Las Vegas, I can’t thank you enough for how much you rallied behind me and my teammates, we did this for you,” Wilson said at the event. “I have some of the best teammates in the world. I mean that.’

And the fans really stepped up. The rally attracted so much attention that the Strip had to be closed to vehicles before it was originally planned to shut down southbound traffic.

Despite its strong ties to sports, Sin City has only had one major professional franchise in the city since the NHL’s Golden Knights arrived in Vegas in 2017.

Franchises have generally been hesitant to move to a city known worldwide for sports betting. That, along with the city’s population of only 653,000 in 2020, meant that no team took a chance on Las Vegas until the hockey franchise came to town.

The Aces moved to Nevada in 2018 and the NFL’s Raiders moved from Oakland to Las Vegas in 2020.

But the city remained without a championship-winning side until Sunday when the Aces, the top seed in the playoffs, banished their demons to win in Connecticut.

The star-studded team has come close in recent years, reaching the finals in 2020 where they were swept by the Seattle Storm and falling in last year’s semifinals to the Phoenix Mercury in a heartbreaking Game 5 loss at home.

The Aces have four 2022 All-Stars on their roster.

The celebrations were even sweeter. Coach Becky Hammon — the first coach in WNBA history to win a title in her first year as a coach — was impressed with the turnout.

“I’m new to the desert and I didn’t know you’d show up like this,” Hammon said. “But I’m learning.”

Nevada Governor Steve Sisola joined in the fan celebration, giving the Aces a key to the Las Vegas Strip and declaring Tuesday Las Vegas Aces Day in the state.

“It’s unbelievable; these women deserve so much,” said Sisola. “They are great leaders on the court, but off the court, they are an inspiration to all young people, especially young women, who today know that their dreams can come true.”

Wilson couldn’t live up to his post-season promise of waterskiing across the Bellagio fountain, but the regular-season MVP and his teammates have won the hearts of their city and will go down as history-makers.