LAS VEGAS — The Las Vegas Aces enjoyed one last celebration from last year’s championship run.
The players from last season received their championship rings and saw their championship banner unveiled atop Michelob Ultra Arena on Saturday in front of 10,191 exuberant fans, the franchise record crowd.
Then, in championship fashion with owner Mark Davis in his courtside seat, and WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert sitting baseline, the Aces crushed the Los Angeles Sparks, 93-65.
Reigning league MVP A’ja Wilson had 23 points and six rebounds for the Aces, while Kelsey Plum added 19, and Jackie Young had 16.
Nneka Ogwumike led the way for the Sparks with 16 points, while Karlie Samuelson chipped in with 13.
The Aces improved to 3-0, while the Sparks, who played shorthanded, dropped to 1-2.
“Tonight was a good night for us across the board,” Wilson said. “I think we had a great showing, I think we showed our identity today and what we’re capable of (doing) over the course of 40 minutes. … I’m very proud of how we showed ourselves today.”
But on this night, it was much more than a game. It was more about an atmosphere that was just as electric as the celebration parade on Las Vegas Boulevard just days after the Aces won the 2022 championship.
And the team didn’t disappoint those in attendance.
“This is their home opener tonight, so it’s the first time I saw the new video and all the lights,” Engelbert said. “I mean, it’s Vegas, right? So what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But no, this is great. It’s a great environment. To sell out the home opener here for the ring ceremony is great, especially when the (Vegas Golden) Knights are playing down the road. That’s pretty outstanding that they sold out tonight. So we love the fan base here and we love Vegas.”
The first player to receive her ring was Dearica Hamby, who was traded to the Sparks in January, and sparked controversy with an Instagram post accusing the Aces of bullying her and attacking her work ethic and character.
Hamby said playing the Aces already in Los Angeles on Thursday helped thwart any anxiety she may have been feeling leading up to facing her former team, and was simply ready to enjoy the pregame celebration for the fans.
Asked if receiving her ring closed the chapter on a tumultuous five months, Hamby paused and smiled.
“Uhhh, no. But it’s a big part of, you know, a pivotal moment for me emotionally,” she said. “I think, obviously, close the chapter with my time with the Aces. Kind of move forward after this. I know everybody’s kind of waiting on this moment both ways. So kind of ready for it to be over with.”
For Wilson, who hadn’t seen the rings until Saturday night, she said the entire night had an Aces vibe.
“There’s a whole lot of diamonds, and it looks really, really good,” Wilson said. “And I mean when it comes to just Vegas and how we do things here, we’re gonna be over the top and we’re gonna be us and I love that.
“And they really took care of us when it came to those rings.”