The City of Las Vegas Sees Its First Major League Title with Aces Championship Win
After a tough battle against the Connecticut Sun, the Las Vegas Aces won the 2022 WNBA Playoff Championship. This marks the very first championship in the Aces franchise history. The team also made history as the first professional sports team to bring a major league title to the city of Las Vegas.
With six assists and five rebounds, Chelsea Gray, Aces point guard, led scoring with 20 points on her way to become the 2022 WNBA Finals MVP. “We didn’t like that feeling we had last year,” Gray explained to ESPN’s Holly Rowe post-game. “It was a tough moment, but it built character. It was setting something up for the following year.”
This was a redemptive moment for Gray who was not selected for All-Star or the All-WNBA team. Earlier this season the Aces won the Commissioner’s Cup title in which Gray also won the MVP.
Another key element to the Aces success is the incomparable A’ja Wilson who had an incredible season. Wilson’s averaged contribution during the season of 19.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.9 blocks per game gave the Aces the consistency they needed to remain competitive. She became the second player in the history of the WNBA to win a Championship title after earning Defensive play of the Year and league MVP. The only other player to achieve that feat is the iconic Sheryl Swoopes.
Finals MVP Gray spoke about Wilson’s leadership in an interview in August saying, “She has the stats and everything, and she leads in categories. But I think [it’s about] her willingness to be that leader, and not go up and down.”
Gray went on to say, “I can’t speak about anybody else, but what I see on an everyday basis is somebody that’s working on both ends of the floor. … She’s doing it all.”
Wilson gave the team the push they needed before Game 2 of this series. Kelsey Plum credited Wilson with “cussing her out” to provoke strong performances.
Wilson talked about being a part of the Aces franchise, “…I’m honored to be drafted by them, for them to trust me, for us gain a Chelsea Gray, for us to be dialed in, for a lot of our starting five to be back, that’s how you create a legacy and how you create a standard. I think we found ourselves in this league where everyone has their standard of how they’ve won, and we are creating that. Our journey is just beginning, and it’s been amazing so far.”
Last but not least, another key component to the team’s success was the addition of Becky Hammon as Head Coach. Hammon’s accomplishments are plentiful. In her first season as Head Coach, she led her team to having the #1 overall record in the league, she earned Coach of the Year, she was a WNBA All-Star Head Coach, she led the Aces to win Commissioner’s Cup Championship, and finally, she led her team to becoming the 2022 WNBA Champions.
Wilson said of Hammon, “When you have a coach like Becky Hammon that is dialed into who we are and where we want to be, the sky is the limit for us. We just have to trust each other and talk and communicate with one another of what we want and what our roles are in this franchise.”
“Really, first thing that you have to do in building a championship culture is to set a tone of accountability first and foremost,” Hammon explained. “Bringing people together for a common goal that’s bigger than themselves, and then you’ve got to get the buy-in factor. My buy-in factor on each one of these women has been high, and I think they respond to me well. And you know, I try to be very clear with what their job is, what the expectation is. Then, everybody is held to the same line in the sense of nobody is shooting it over two, three people. Play the right way, and everybody wins, and when we win, everything else takes care of itself.”
Hammon went on to say, “Just really happy for the girls overall. They stayed focused. This has been the goal since training camp. Luckily, I got a group of really resilient players, and you know, I said it out there, but probably the biggest thing I’m proud of is just how they have come together over the course of the past five, six months to really become a team. And you saw different people step up at different moments tonight, and that’s what makes us difficult to beat.”
It looks like the chemistry is just right and with the core group under contract and set to return in 2023 the sky is the limit for this team, and this is clearly only the beginning.