Illuminating Sin City like the ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ sign after a dark desert drive, the WNBA bathed Nevada in an orange glow this weekend.
Head-to-head, Team Wilson and Team Stewart gave us an early WNBA Finals preview with what could be a showdown between A’ja’s Las Vegas Aces and Breanna’s New York Liberty. Yet, it was Stewie’s former Seattle Storm teammate Jewell Loyd who took home the hardware as LV’s All-star game’s Most Valuable Player.
The Mamba changed the cities colour from an orange crush like the iconic W hoodie, to the glittering of all her gold. Breaking Chicago’s ASG MVP Kelsey Plum’s all-time point total with a record 31 and an even bigger trophy than last year’s tin cup.
Plum came alive in the fourth and matched her previous point pace from last season with 30 off the bench in just 21 minutes of burn. Despite a hand hotter than her pre-game fit, it was close, but no championship cigar, as Team Stewie (Breanna prefers that unofficial name) defeated Wilson 143-127.
Four-pointers were raining from their respective spots with much more precise precipitation than before. Which could lead the NBA to copying the WNBA, like they have just done with their version of the in-season Commissioner’s Cup.
Not to forget the statement jerseys in the Bubble. Liberty torch carrier Sabrina Ionsescu (18 points) had the ice veins from that range, but it was what she did the day before that really reigned.
In a truly Starry 3-Point Contest, Ionsescu won with a record 37 made from downtown. Only missing two-shots and cashing in on all her money balls, that’s not just a WNBA record.
No NBA player has ever made that mark. Not even Larry “Who’s coming in second” Bird. The purest in the NBA Steph Curry FaceTimed Sab immediately after the contest and Ionescu challenged the chef to a shoot-out.
This Sunday morning, Curry hit a hole-in-one on the golf course. Challenge accepted?
Everyone, from those in the contest to courtside, and the nosebleeds and hoop heavens, raised from their seats to see this record feat. Sabrina and her NY teammate Courtney Vandersloot couldn’t beat hometown heroes Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum in the Kia Skills Challenge though, which is always a spectacular showcase.
Michelob ULTRA Arena featured all the high-rollers, from WNBA to NBA legends and other celebrities’ courtside. The biggest star in a battle of bigs A’Ja Wilson (20 points, 5 rebounds) danced with a broom she may soon use to sweep the opposition, but this weekend the leading vote-getter didn’t dust off any trophies.
Last campaign’s regular-season and Finals MVP (not to mention the Defensive Player of the Year) already has a complete cabinet, mind you. It was good vibes only for a great time in the city without a single slot pulled.
It was always going to be this way. Last year in the Windy City, every All-star wore the number 42 in support of Brittney Griner who was detained in a Russian prison for ten months. This year, the first-pick in Stewart’s draft, BG was back with 18 points, 13 rebounds and a signature slam. No contest! She’s home where she belongs, having fun.
Next year, the WNBA All-star game will be held in Griner’s Mercury home of Phoenix, which could be a nice send-off if that is the calendar GOAT teammate Diana Taurasi calls it a career. Even though we don’t want her to.
What happened in Vegas was the making of something special, too. The WNBA is truly a W now.