Aces Dominate to Win Their First Championship

Kane Edwards, Contributing Writer

The Las Vegas Aces, led by guards Kelsey Plum and Chelsea Gray, along with forward A’ja Wilson, took down the Connecticut Sun in a best-of-five series to secure their first WNBA championship. The Aces impressed, closing the series out in four games in dominating fashion on Sunday, Sept. 18.

This run to success was nothing short of the Aces’ expectations. In a competitive Western Conference, they held the top seed, sitting at 26-10 and holding a 15-3 conference record. Going into the playoffs, they had great momentum as they won their final four games of the regular season, with two victories over the Seattle Storm, a victory over the Atlanta Dream, and a victory over the Chicago Sky. Their first-round opponent was the Phoenix Mercury, whom the Aces made quick work of, winning both games by a margin of 26.5 points. Moving onto the second round, they faced their Western Conference rivals, the Seattle Storm. The Storm got the best of them in Game 1, boasting a 76-73 victory. The Aces remained determined, however, and took three straight victories, propelling them into the Finals against the Sun.

Vegas opened the series at home in Michelob Ultra Arena against a consistent Connecticut Sun team that was also hungry for its first championship. Game one was a nip and tuck battle, but the Aces scraped away with a 67-64 victory. Game two had a little more separation, with the final score ending in an Aces’ 85-71 victory. The Sun didn’t go down without a fight, as they blew the doors off the Aces in a Game three 105-76 win. Eventually, the Aces proved their dominance, closing out the Finals with a 78-71 Game four series-clinching victory led by Chelsea Gray’s 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists. 

Unsurprisingly, Chelsea Gray was named the WNBA Finals MVP after averaging 18.3 points and 6.0 assists per game. In the heat of the moment, Gray’s championship experience showed. Gray became a WNBA champion with the Los Angeles Sparks in 2016 and has played at a championship level throughout her career. 

Credit should also go to Becky Hammon for winning the championship in her first season as a WNBA head coach. Hammon was hired by the Aces in 2021 after her long tenure with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, where she worked as an assistant to the legendary Greg Popovich. In fact, Hammon became the first female acting head coach in NBA history when she stepped in for Popovich after his ejection against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020. Certainly, Hammon already looks the part in her first season as a WNBA head coach.

Hammon not only has an amazing pedigree as a coach but also played in the WNBA from 1999-2014; earning six WNBA All-Star selections during her time as a player. She played her best years for the Las Vegas Aces franchise (formerly known as the San Antonio Silver Stars), who retired her No. 25 jersey in 2016. “Big-Shot” Becky’s previous history with the franchise makes the finals victory that much more special. Hammon never won a WNBA championship as a player, but now she can add it to her impressive coaching resume.

Perhaps even more impressive than winning the Finals was their record throughout the entirety of the playoffs. Their final playoff record ended with eight wins and only two losses. Their competitive spirit and pure dominance were on display all season, and both quickly carried over to the playoffs. Moving into the 2023 season, the Aces will have a huge target on their back as the defending champions. But if this season is any indication of how good they will be next season, the rest of the WNBA is in for trouble.

As we near October, one of the most exciting times of the year is almost set to begin: the start of the NBA season. There is a saying that as one door closes, another opens. The NBA door is moments away from opening, while the WNBA door has just recently closed, with the Las Vegas Aces having the last laugh.