Aces honored with rings and raise 2nd WNBA championship banner

They received championship rings and a banner, a pregame speech from Tom Brady and a WNBA season-opening victory. It was quite a night for the two-time defending champion Las Vegas Aces.

Las Vegas celebrated its back-to-back crowns before its 89-80 victory over the Phoenix Mercury thanks to 30 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists from forward A’ja Wilson.

“We’re back,” team owner Mark Davis told a packed Michelob Ultra Arena Tuesday night. “Not only are we back, but we are two-time consecutive world champions. All I can say is go three rounds.”

However, seven-time Super Bowl champion Brady, a minority owner of the Aces, told the team during a visit to the locker room before the game not to focus too much on a triple.

“He was saying, ‘The banners will still be there, so you don’t have to try to defend that. Just go do what you did,'” Wilson said. “That message made the night for me. Because I feel like we’re so caught up in, ‘Oh, my God, we have to go three laps.’ But that banner will be there forever. My ring will be in the trophy box forever Let me focus on getting better, and then everything else will flow.”

Aces coach Becky Hammon said she didn’t tell the players in advance that Brady was visiting, so it was a nice surprise for them.

“I thought it would be cool to bring in a sports personality who not only is invested in our team, but also knows a few things about winning,” Hammon said with a smile. “Just give him the floor. He’s someone who sat where they sat – chasing the story and trying to be the greatest.

“These things don’t happen by chance. You really have to be intentional in your work, your approach… And in saving moments. We’re certainly happy that he came to share some of his knowledge, her passion and love for women’s sport.

Las Vegas returns its roster for another title run, but point guard Chelsea Gray remains out with a left leg injury suffered in Game 3 of last season’s WNBA Finals against the New York Liberty .

The Aces debuted their new silver and black uniforms, more closely mirroring those of Davis’ other Las Vegas team, the Raiders.

Davis, who was seated next to Brady and WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, greeted Hammon and the Las Vegas players as they were introduced to the crowd.

Finals MVP Wilson was flooded with “MVP” chants from the sold-out crowd.

“We are very grateful to have a fan base that supports us,” Wilson told fans. “We’re lucky to be in this situation. We’ve worked hard to get here, so we just want to say thank you.”

Engelbert could have been in Connecticut for Caitlin Clark’s Indiana Fever debut, but instead took center stage in Las Vegas.

“My favorite part of my job is handing out the trophy and, the following year, handing out the rings,” Engelbert said before the ceremony. “So it’s important: back-to-back champions.”

“The ring is beautiful…It’s huge,” Wilson said. “I wasn’t expecting that. It’s like diamonds all around – bling, bling, bling, bling, bling.”

The Aces hope to become the first team since the 1997-2000 Houston Comets to win at least three straight titles and the second to accomplish the feat.

Las Vegas became the first team since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and 2002 to repeat as champions when the Aces beat the Liberty in four games in the Finals last year.

“It’s going to be a lot of tough games,” Wilson said of the teams that will challenge the Aces this year. “We have something that people want. We have to try to continue to improve.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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