LAS VEGAS — The two-time WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces sequestered a small portion of Las Vegas Boulevard and Toshiba Plaza outside of T-Mobile Arena on Monday night, as they celebrated their second championship with Southern Nevada.
The heavily favored Aces used four games to do what everyone expected them to do, defeating the New York Liberty and winning the title.
And for the throngs of sports fans who have come to adore this team, it was another night of partying with yet another championship to celebrate.
The night was, as they say, lit.
If you’re into that sort of thing.
Put it this way, you won money if you had team president Nikki Fargas dropping the first cuss word during the live broadcast on your “swear word bingo card.”
You also won if you had coach Becky Hammon dropping the first audible “F-bomb.”
It’s truly been incredible to see Las Vegas embrace this group of women, welcoming them into their hearts to become a piece of the fabric that’s embodied professional sports in Southern Nevada since the 1980s.
“You guys have really become a part of our family,” Aces guard Kelsey Plum said to the gathering.
All due respect, but no KP – you ladies have really become a part of OUR family. Our fabric.
See, for some of us, this was bigger than the speeches we heard, some of them slurred, others genuine and heartfelt, and a couple laced with innuendo and subliminal shots. It was more than arena emcee CJ Simpson creating a buzz by going hoarse when she enticed the crowd to chant, “AAACEEESSSS!!!” numerous times.
You see, there was a time when Vegas nights consisted of a quick lap on The Strip, from the old Circus Circus to the original Fashion Show Mall.
I say “old” and “original” because neither were as big as they are in 2023, back in 1986.
Cruising Las Vegas Boulevard was a weekend ritual before hitting stand-alone nightclubs, long before hotels housed any of them.
It took about 10 minutes to cruise a crowded Strip, to make that round-trip loop from Spring Mountain Road to Circus Circus Drive.
And driving down The Boulevard’s 3.2-mile stretch from the avenues of Sahara to Tropicana might have taken just 15 minutes in the daytime.
By the turn of the century, the only championship parade we knew about was after the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels won the 1990 National Championship.
Talk about a parade.
It traveled from Fremont Street to the Thomas and Mack Center.
It was an “8 Mile” trek that predated Eminem’s “B-Rabbit.”
Talk about lit.
And we all know the significance of that program, right? If not, use DuckDuckGo and read up on the history of Las Vegas – pre-professional sports.
For those of us who remember the Rebels playing in the Las Vegas Convention Center’s Rotunda, their move to the Thomas and Mack Center, and the National Championship run – the intoxicating debauchery with arguably the greatest assembling of women’s basketball players Monday was much bigger than the women who became the first back-to-back WNBA champions in 21 years.
The OGs of Las Vegas remember the days of the Dunes and El Rancho and Desert Inn and Aladdin and Castaways and Bourbon Street and Sands and Frontier and Stardust and Hacienda – all historic and imploded hotels that graced the Boulevard the Aces have enjoyed riding along after back-to-back championships.
Come to think of it, I walked inside every one of those casinos at some point in my life, long before every player on the Aces and Golden Knights rosters was even born.
So you can imagine what it means to the Las Vegas’ OG family to see three championship parades in a span of 398 days for a town that was once taboo when it came to professional sports.
Remember, it was just 20 years ago the NFL banned Las Vegas from advertising during the Super Bowl broadcast. Heck, I can remember when then-Mayor Oscar Goodman vowed to bring major professional sports to Southern Nevada.
Now there’s a politician who truly deserves credit for getting the ball rolling when it comes to professional sports becoming a part of our family.
Personally, I wish the professional championships celebrated by previous Las Vegas teams that are oft-overlooked had their drunken moments on The Strip.
I could certainly see the beloved Don Logan and the 1986 or 1988 PCL Las Vegas Stars bathing in the Caesars Palace fountains.
Or the 1988 WBL Silver Streaks.
Or the 1994 CISL Dust Devils.
Or the 2009 and 2010 UFL Locos.
Like the Aces and Golden Knights that have brought this town championships, those others really became a part of Las Vegas’ family, too.
“It’s hard to win a championship,” Aces and Raiders owner Mark Davis said Monday night to the raucous crowd. “It’s even harder to repeat, but when you have great women running a team – Nikki Fargas, Becky Hammon, 12 badass women that know how to play basketball – that’s what gets you wins.”
Wins, that have made the Aces a part of Las Vegas’ OG Family.