May 28, 2023
Sights and sounds from the Las Vegas Aces’ 2022 title ring ceremony
A look at a night that will never be forgotten in the history of Las Vegas sports.
LAS VEGAS — Until 2017, the city of Las Vegas didn’t have a professional sports team. Once it did, though, it only took five years for the Las Vegas Aces to win the city its first ever major professional championship
On Saturday night, the Aces got what every major athlete yearns for, their championship rings for their 2022 WNBA title — and it was quite a party.
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With over 10,000 fans in Michelob Ultra Arena, one by one, Aces players and coaches received their rings. Each player was announced one by one with all of them getting a roaring applause from the crowd. As the players saw the ring for the first time, they were in awe of it.
Each ring has over 560 diamonds in it and their names and numbers on the side. Each player was handed their ring by owner Mark Davis and was able to put it on and show it off to the roaring crowd. A’ja Wilson was emotional when she saw the banner being raised and gave a powerful speech to the fans after getting her ring.
“When I look up there and I see that me and my teammates were able to hang that banner, especially with Becky’s first year of coaching, it was truly, it was crazy,” Wilson said. “I got all the feels all over again because we worked our ass off last year, we really did, and a lot of people probably didn’t have us in the situation that we were in and we came out on top. To see that and honestly to see I just remember meeting Becky the first time at her jersey retirement, at her jersey hanging so it’s pretty dope just to see the full circle moment with our banner going up there and up there forever.”
The Aces have always made their home games feel like a party in Las Vegas, and to start the 2023 season was no different. They had a new introduction video which had all the players partying with their new championship trophy. Then, the player introductions included laser lights and pyrotechnics. The Aces understand the city they call home in and did a great job playing into it in their first game as WNBA champions.
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The new championship banner is hung right next to the Aces only retired jersey, Becky Hammon’s. Hammon, who had been suspended the first two games of the season but was back on the sideline on Saturday night, was surprised that the banner was hung right next to her jersey. However, she did admit they looked lonely up there and they need more jerseys and championship banners next to them.
“It’s hard to look at those rings and not understand that it’s real,” said Hammon. “Just a unbelievable crowd, unbelievable moment. Obviously really happy for our whole team, that 2022 team, all the members. It was, it was a special run. And I think it’s it was nice to enjoy it… I will say it looks very lovely next to it. They need some neighbors though. Some other jerseys will be up there eventually I know and championship banners, hopefully.”
Another player who received their ring was former Ace, now Los Angeles Spark, Dearica Hamby. Hamby was traded in the offseason to the Sparks after eight seasons with the Aces. After being traded, Hamby posted a picture on Instagram alleging that the Aces traded her because she was pregnant with her second child.
Hamby was very cordial, signing autographs and taking pictures with fans before the game. She got her ring from owner Mark Davis before all the Aces players did and said a few words to Davis while receiving her ring. She also was joined by her daughter Amaya after getting her ring.
“It’s so difficult to win a championship in this league,” said Sparks coach Curt Miller of Hamby. “And she won a championship and was a huge part of it. It’s been a huge part of the build for Vegas to be where they’re at through Bill and now and now Becky, and the first thing she did in the locker room when we got back in was apologize to me because she was worried how I was impacted by the ceremony. That just tells you what kind of character she has… I know how difficult it was but she felt compelled to apologize to me getting that ring and worried about what I felt like that just sums up Dearica Hamby to me.”
“I feel like it was a great moment for her to have a great moment for us to share with her,” said Wilson on her former teammate receiving her ring. “We don’t we don’t win that ring without D(earica). I’m not gonna not say that because it’s true. It’s great that she can have that and share that moment with her two children and her mom and her sister there and it was really good to see her.”
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When it came time for the game, the sellout crowd was engaged from the tip. The Aces were 16.5-point favorites, but you wouldn’t have known it from the fans. They were cheering for every steal, block, layup and 3-pointer. Jackie Young got a steal and kicked it ahead to Kelsey Plum for a layup, capping an 11-2 start for the Aces and causing a LA timeout. The crowd went crazy, and the atmosphere felt like the Aces were once again playing in the finals.
Midway through the first quarter, the in-house emcees had the crowd put on their phone flashlight and start singing ‘We are the champions’ by Queen. The entire crowd got into it and sang at the top of their lungs along with Freddie Mercury. The Aces also pulled out all the stops, bringing in eight-time Grammy award winner Anita Baker to perform the national anthem and hip-hop star Coi Leray to perform at halftime.
The actual basketball game was a cake walk for the Aces. They dominated in all facets of the game but especially the defensive end, which was stellar. They forced 16 steals and blocked eight shots. The Aces had multiple huge blocks, including one where Wilson blocked fellow South Carolina alum Zia Cooke, and the crowd got on their feet with every one of them.
Offensively, the Aces were able to get a lot of easy looks against a depleted Sparks roster on Saturday night. Every uniformed player scored at least one point and they were led by 23 from the reigning MVP, Wilson.
“I think whenever we’re locked in on defense, we’re able to get you know, easy buckets and transition,” said Jackie Young. “Everyone’s playing very unselfish, sharing the ball making the right reads and so whenever we’re doing that, the balls popping and we are getting open looks.”
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While the Aces dominated the Sparks, a lot of the conversation after the game was about the rings and celebrating what they had accomplished the previous season. Most of the Aces players had never won a ring and so really tried to soak in what it meant to them in that moment. Players like Sydney Colson and Kelsey Plum have been a part of the organization since they were in San Antonio and so Saturday night was an even bigger deal to them.
“It means a ton,” Sydney Colson told The Next. “I’ve been with this organization a long time since San Antonio days, it’s my sixth year with them. It was just really, really special to be able to do this with this group. It’s such a talented team, but everybody is really selfless. And I’ve never been around energy like that before in a team that performs like that and treats each other like that. So yeah, to finally get one man in my eighth year, it’s just it’s amazing…I’m overwhelmed. I’m really grateful and blessed. God has put me in amazing situation being with this organization.”
Plum told The Next, “I don’t even know if it’ll like fully soak in until like, you know, it goes along, but it’s just amazing to see the growth of, like, from where we were in San Antonio to here, here we are now. And I think honestly, like, it’s just the people that you’re doing it with, you know, I think that’s what makes us special. But just proud.
“Being able to share these moments with all these people is like that’s what makes it special.”
While Saturday was about celebrating the 2022 group, the 2023 team believes they can do what hasn’t been done in over 20 years in the WNBA: repeat as champions. The additions of Candace Parker and Alysha Clark have been smooth so far and they both look like they have played with this group for years. This Aces group wants to go down as one of the best all time in the history of the WNBA and they know Saturday night was just the start.
“I kind of approach it as I want to get another ring not necessarily defending it or being back-to-back,” Wilson said. “I just want to go in and approach it the same way I approached my first one. And I think that goes the same for all of us. I feel like if we look at that, we’re gonna put more pressure on ourselves and it’s downhill from there…I feel like we’re just forming a dynasty here. We want to go down in the books as one of the best teams that W has ever seen.”
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.