wnba

Motherhood lifts Aces guard Gray to top of world

Since her son's arrival, Chelsea Gray has had as many awe-stricken moments as a mom as her fans do after one of her no-look passes.

LAS VEGAS — Aces point guard Chelsea Gray couldn’t have been any prouder, walking through the MGM Grand Garden following the Pac-12 Women’s Championship two months ago.

At the game with her wife, Tipesa, as they had done plenty of times during the offseason attending sporting events around town, the three-time WNBA champion couldn’t help but wear her trademark smile. This time, the couple wasn’t alone.

Less than two weeks earlier, Tipesa had given birth to their son, Lennox.

“It’s been awesome,” Gray told The Sporting Tribune during the Aces Media Day on May 3. “He’s great. You know, it’s crazy what kids do.

“Whatever kind of day you’re having or whatever happened in practice, you come home and see him and he doesn’t talk about the game. He’s not somebody that understands that you’ve made mistakes out there. It’s just a different perspective.”

Like on Mother’s Day.

“It was great,” Gray said. “We were able to relax and sleep a little bit, but he was cool. (I was) getting texts and my phone (was) blowing up. It’s crazy that now I’m a mom.

“I still look over and I’m just like, ‘Wow, like you’re mine, you’re my son.’ So it’s cool.”

Photo courtesy Tipesa Gray / Instagram

Goodbye, ol’ friend

Candace Parker had won two MVP awards by the time Gray was drafted by the Connecticut Sun in 2014.

Two years later, Parker and Gray won a WNBA championship with the Los Angeles Sparks.

Gradually, as they each decorated their careers impressively, a working relationship turned into a friendship and a friendship transitioned into family.

So imagine the emotions Gray felt when her best friend announced she was retiring the day training camp started.

“It was hard man,” Gray said. ” One, because I would watch certain things and I’m like, ‘She still had some time, still had some go in her.’ I only know the WNBA with Candace in it.

“A lot of these people that have retired — you talk about Sue (Bird) and Sylvia Fowles – they’ve been in the league since I have. But I was (Candace’s) teammate my second year in the league. She’s helped me grow into the competitor and the professional that I am now, on and off the court.”

After spending five years together in Los Angeles, the two were reunited in Las Vegas in time for the 2023 season and won a second title together.

Gray said the two often reminisce about conversations from 2016, when she joined Parker in L.A., and how much different their chats are eight years later.

“Just the growth that we’ve both been able to kind of do together – and apart – it’s pretty cool,” Gray said. “She’s transformed basketball, both men and women.

“And when you see somebody like that, I don’t think we gave her enough flowers while she was playing. And so now we kind of can’t.”

Nevertheless, the two will forever be bonded.

“She’ll still be in my life for sure,” Gray added. “She’s my son’s godmother, so nothing like that has changed.”

Aces guard Chelsea Gray (12) is defended by New York Liberty guard Courtney Vandersloot (22) in the first quarter during game three of the 2023 WNBA Finals at Barclays Center. (Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports)

Her own legacy

As she’s watched some of the greats retire in recent years, Gray is still having a hard time accepting the fact her name belongs alongside the next era of greats WNBA fans are talking about.

“I know I’m going into double-digit years here, but I think I still just have so much more, so many more years, that it’s hard for me to kind of comprehend or navigate saying those type of words,” she said. “Just because I just feel like I’m not even close to them.”

But she is.

Gray has averaged 7.3 assists a game the last two seasons with the Aces and is quickly climbing the all-time leaderboard with 1,499 assists. Ranked ninth, Gray should have no trouble catching Cappie Pondexter (1,578) once she returns from an injury that’s kept her out of the lineup through the team’s first two games.

It’s a pair of retired legends who reside in sixth and seventh place that might bring her closer to the reality of just how great she’s become. Aces coach Becky Hammon ranks sixth with 1,708 while Parker sits seventh with 1,634.

“She’s just oozing joy at the moment right now and I think she’s at such a great spot in her life personally,” Hammon said. “Professionally, she’s at the top of the game of her game.

“I mean, she’s the best point guard in the world, just became a mom. So there’s so many exciting great things going on for her personally.”

For now, Gray said the only thing on her mind is getting back on the court and leading the Aces to a third straight championship, with plenty left in her tank and a lot more to accomplish.

“I’m all about chasing championships, so not satisfied whatsoever,” said Gray, whose 1,499 assists ranks second since 2014. “I have three (titles) now, going into my 10th year. … I think when you’re so focused on chasing history you don’t really think about (retiring and legacy). Maybe a little bit more down the line.

“This franchise has really changed my headspace and how I feel about the league. And just the growth of the sport itself.”