LAS VEGAS — Las Vegas Aces forward Kierstan Bell has become a fan favorite inside Michelob Ultra Arena.
It hasn’t mattered when she’s come off the bench since arriving after the 2022 WNBA Draft, the crowd has roared whenever her name has been announced, like Thursday night when she checked in with 1:53 left in the first quarter against the Seattle Storm.
This season, however, there’s a fan she’s been waiting for since 2003.
Perry Bell, her 54-year-old father, is back in her life after serving a 20-year sentence — for aggravated robbery, receiving stolen property, and several other offenses — and she couldn’t be any more pleased.
“We had a relationship that was instantly clicking,” said Bell, who finished with 12 points in the 96-63 victory over Seattle. “And we became like best friends.”
Perry Bell has been to every home game, including an emotional home opener when he watched his daughter’s name called during a ring ceremony that saw owner Mark Davis present Kierstan with her diamond-encrusted championship ring from last season’s title team.
“That was dope right there, I feel good watching that,” a misty-eyed Bell said immediately after the ceremony. “I got to see her get a ring.”
And it was just as special for his daughter.
“He was excited to be here and have the opportunity to see me play in person,” she said. “He’s always been seeing me on TV. So I think he was excited to be here and witness me for the first time at the professional level, which is, you know, the best level to be at.”
It’s been quite a transition back into society, especially when you consider the WNBA was six years old when he went to prison, and there was no such thing as Facebook (launched in 2004), Twitter (2006), YouTube (2007), or Instagram (2010).
More importantly, Kierstan Bell was two months shy of turning 3 years old.
“He was gone for my whole life,” she said.
Prior to his release the last time Bell saw her father was through plexiglass when she was a teenager. Her high school coach would send newspaper clippings to Perry, so he could maintain some sort of connection with her as she got older, and progressed as an athlete.
To get by, during his time inside, Perry said he played a lot of sports and mentored plenty of younger prisoners.
“I tried to give them the best advice I could,” he said. “You had these young gang members who would look up to the older guys – they called me the O.G. – and I would tell them to do what they had to do to survive, but to keep their nose clean along the way.”
Yet while he fed his desire to be a parent by mentoring young men, he never lost a yearning to be there for his daughter.
And Kierstan’s love for her father never dissolved.
Which is why she was proud and excited to have her father move to Las Vegas with her while helping him get back on his feet, and ease into society.
“I’m blessed to be able to have a relationship with him outside of the phone calls and letters and things like that,” she said. “So it’s just been a blessing, an opportunity to just get a relationship with my dad.”
She couldn’t wait to introduce him to her teammates, and of course, the MVP was the first to make him feel welcome by talking a little trash about his swagger-filled walk.
“Oh, he walks like a pimp,” Aces star A’ja Wilson said with a chuckle. “He got a little pimp walk in him, he’s an O.G.”
Wilson, whose strong-bonded relationship with her father Roscoe has been well documented, said she felt the immediate warmth between Kierstan and Perry, and couldn’t have been any happier for one of the locker room’s best sources of energy.
“Just to see her and her interaction with her dad is truly special,” Wilson said. “And it’s a joy to have him here to support her as much as we do. And I love that for her.”
Teammate Jackie Young, who has gotten extremely close with Bell, said she knew how long her teammate was anticipating her father’s arrival and agreed with Wilson that’s been touching to see the two reconnect, interact and grow closer every day.
“I’ve been around him since he’s been out here, and just seeing him get more comfortable and to be able to interact with people and to really just enjoy the outside world – I know that KB has been waiting for this moment for a long time, and I know he has too,” Young said. ‘It’s just special to be able to see them kind of bond and kind of build that relationship.
“I know he’s extremely proud of her and happy to be able to see her play at the highest level.”