The Las Vegas Aces began their 2023 campaign with two road games, but finally returned home to Sin City on Saturday night for their home opener. Waiting for them on ring night was a serious piece of hardware, as they celebrated winning their first title in franchise history last season. Then, they capped off the celebrations by crushing the Los Angeles Sparks, 93-65
Each player received a stunning ring that featured a whopping 561 total diamonds with "World Champions," the Aces' logo and 26 special cut diamonds on the front -- the latter to represent the Aces' 26 wins in the league's 26th season. On one side of the ring was the players' name, position and number and on the other side was the WNBA championship trophy.
Each player was given a moment in the spotlight when they were called forward to receive their ring before the entire team watched their 2022 championship banner get raised to the rafters. To complete the pre-game ceremony in style, the team even had Anita Baker in the house to sing the national anthem.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of the night was that long-time Aces star Dearica Hamby was in attendance as a member of the Sparks. She was traded away from the Aces in controversial fashion during the offseason, and laterduring her pregnancy.
Hamby's allegations of mistreatment led to a league investigation and resulted in Aces head coach Becky Hammon beingfor "violating the league and team Respect in the Workplace policies." (The Aces also lost their 2025 first-round pick as a result of a separate aspect of the league's investigation into the organization's behavior during free agency this winter.)
While Hamby rightfully has issues with the club, the fans in Vegas still have a soft spot for her after she spent eight seasons with the franchise. During that time, she won two Sixth Player of the Year awards, made two All-Star appearances and helped the team win a title last season. She told Las Vegas radio host Willie G. Ramirez that she was only participtaing in the ceremony for the fans, and received a standing ovation from the crowd upon receiving her ring.
"I feel like it was a great moment for her to have, a great moment for us to share with her," A'ja Wilson said of Hamby. "We don't win the ring without [Dearica]. So it's very great she could have that moment and share it with her two children and her mom and her sister there. And it was really good to see her."
In an ironic twist, this game also marked Hammon's return from suspension. The second-year head coach still denies any wrongdoing relating to the Hamby situation, and was emotional before and after the game.
"This is my 25th year in either the WNBA or the NBA," Hammon said. "This is just my home space. So it was definitely nice to get out there, be with my team. But honestly, they've been so awesome through this whole thing. They know how to make me smile, for sure. It was nice to have this moment with them and be out there and be in the battle with them."
On the court, there wasn't much drama. The Aces jumped out to an 18-point lead at the end of the first quarter against the shorthanded Sparks and cruised the rest of the way. Wilson impressed with 23 points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks, while Kelsey Plum added 19 points and five assists. Now 3-0 on the season, the Aces are atop the league standings.