July 16, 2023 

Team Stewart wins the 2023 All-Star game that was full of smiles

The 2023 All-Star game was a great time had by all and filled with many memorable moments

LAS VEGAS — An exhibition where the best of the best show off the talent of their league. That is the basis of an all-star game. The 2023 WNBA All-Star game did that and so much more. It was a showcase of the WNBA’s best, with many big names in attendance, with a game of basketball and many different storylines rolled in.

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Before the game even started, there was a high buzz around the city of Las Vegas. The ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign was lit up in orange. The airport had WNBA All-Star signage inside it. Multiple hotels on the strip lit up orange. There were large contingent of WNBA fans who made the trip from their hometown to enjoy the festivities and Las Vegas welcomed them with open arms.

“I think the fan engagement was great,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “I think, as I went around, not just here at Mandalay Bay, but also around the city. A ton of W branding, the airport having W branding, having the hotels light up in orange; we had the drone take some footage last night, the hotels lit up in orange last night in response to the W being here. So really, we really feel so welcomed here and it’s been, I think, a great experience.”

All this excitement around the game led to a highly energized and raucous crowd. The game was sold out and the fans were amped from the opening tip until the final whistle. Every play brought a ton of energy from the fans, but an early dunk from Brittney Griner brought the fans to their feet.

The players for Team Wilson are announced at the 2023 WNBA All-Star Game. Photo Credit: Matthew Walter/The Next

The player introductions were amped with many of them doing different dances as they were announced. The fans got especially loud for the announcements of all the Aces players as well as Griner and 3-point contest champion Sabrina Ionescu. The players were as excited as the fans were for the game to start.

The teams came out with energy, but the game got off to a slow start, with neither team finding their offensive rhythm in the first quarter. However, despite the lack of offense the players still were enjoying themselves on the court. Everybody was joking with each other, jacking up four-pointers and smiling constantly.

“I’m just happy to be here at this building,” said Griner. “All-Star, it’s a fun time that we get to all be together. Really get to learn everybody’s personality. What you see on the court is fun, but in the locker room, you know, a couple of hours, three hours four hours before the game five hours before the game. That’s where all the little moments that you take away always happen. That’s what I always look forward to. And then just being here with them after everything that they did to support me through, you know, one of the toughest times it just means everything to be here.”

With the game being in the Sin City, the stars were out in full force to watch the W’s best put on a show. There were multiple NBA stars courtside, with Kevin Durant, Tracy McGrady and DeMar DeRozan, to name a few. On top of that, there were many current and former WNBA stars, with Sue Bird, Sylvia Fowles, Seimone Augustus, and Sheryl Swoopes headlining the group. On top of that, new WNBA owner Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union got a huge ovation when they were shown on the jumbotron.

Dallas' Satou Sabally fights for position against Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury. (Photo Credit: The Dallas Wings)
Dallas’ Satou Sabally fights for position against Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury. (Photo Credit: The Dallas Wings)

On top of that, the halftime entertainment was multi-Grammy nominated singer Kehlani. For her halftime performance, all of the players came out of the locker room to watch her sing, with many of them filming the Oakland-based singer’s performance. For the moment, the players were just like 10,000 plus people there to watch them play, fans.

“I think we did pretty well,” said Wilson. “I feel like that’s a question for you guys (referencing her fellow All-Stars). I mean, I live here, so the city’s always lit. But I think we did a pretty decent job of taking care of the All-Stars because that’s what we always need to do. These elite women need to be taken care of. And I hope that Vegas did a great job of doing that…we did have the city showed out and I definitely felt it and we appreciate everybody for coming out.”

Throughout the game, there were many fun moments. At one point in the second quarter, Ionescu had hit a couple of four-pointers in a row and Cheyenne Parker didn’t want her to get hot like she did on Friday afternoon. To stop her from taking another one, Parker got up into Ionescu and made her put it on the floor, with both laughing as Ionescu drove into the paint. Later in the game, Arike Ogunbowale was guarding her Wings teammate Satou Sabally. Sabally was posting up Ogunbowale on the perimeter asking for the ball, the entire time both smiling and laughing with one another.

At one point in the fourth quarter, the ball got wedgied above the basket and Wilson was asked to help get the ball down. Instead of getting the ball down right away, Wilson got in the grove of the music that was playing in the arena and started dancing along with teammate Chelsea Gray. The crowd loved it and cheered them on. Another great moment was late in the game Griner emphatically blocked a layup attempt by Kelsey Plum. On the subsequent possession, all four Aces, who were on the floor at the time, quadruple-teamed Griner making her pass instead of trying to score.

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“The biggest thing is watch your head, don’t get dunked on,” said Wilson. “That was the defensive assignment. Anytime you see BG in the paint, I think you should just move out of the way because we don’t know how that would end. That was definitely a big defensive scheme of ours…quadruple teaming BG; I mean, what else were you supposed to do? We was already down by 50, so we had to do something. Show a little effort because people came to see us perform and do our thing.”

Seattle Storm guard Jewell Loyd drives past Las Vegas Aces guard Jackie Young in a WNBA game.
The historic play of Jewell Loyd (24) has spearheaded the most surprising offense in the WNBA. (Photo credit: Lydia Ely/The Next)

When it came to MVP of the game, it was a no-brainer as Jewell Loyd put on a show from beyond the arc. She set an All-Star game record with 31 points and 10 made 3-pointers. In fact, all her made baskets were from beyond the arc as she knocked down one four-pointer. On the possession, she broke the record, Team Wilson tried to double-team her, but it was to no avail. She missed the initial three on the possession, but one of her teammates got the offensive rebound and found her for the record-breaker.

“I think I played hard because of my parents,” Loyd said. “I didn’t have a gift for their anniversary. So I think this will be acceptable. I hope it is. But you know, if you guys know my mom, I don’t know, it doesn’t have glitter pink, fire coming out, anything like that, so it was more so a gift for my parents…It was a goal of mine. It was a plan of mine, but same time my niece and nephew wanted me to go for it, so anything for them right.”

Loyd wasn’t the only one who put on a record performance. The whole game broke a bunch of records. Team Stewart set the record for the most points in a WNBA all-star game by a team as the two teams combined for the most points in game history, 270. It also had the most players with 15+ points and rebounds by a team.

Overall, the 2023 All-Star game brought a lot of excitement to the game and all the players involved. There was a lot of smiles and laughs had by all and that is what the All-Star game is meant to do. Las Vegas set the bar high this year and Phoenix will need to follow the standard when they host the All-Star game next year.

Written by Matthew Walter

Matthew Walter covers the Las Vegas Aces, the Pac-12 and the WCC for the Next. He is a former Director of Basketball Operations and Video Coordinator at three different Division I women's basketball programs.

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