Vice president celebrates Aces’ WNBA title in White House visit

Aug 25, 2023, 05:12 PM ET

WASHINGTON — Vice President Kamala Harris led a White House celebration Friday for the 2022 WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces, praising the team for its “grit and determination” on the court and “ferocious” advocacy in support of colleague Brittney Griner during her detention in Russia last year.

The Aces defeated the Connecticut Sun 78-71 in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals to win the title.

“It was only five years ago that this franchise moved to Las Vegas and now they are the first major professional sports team in Nevada history … to win a championship, and that’s because this team defines grit and determination,” Harris said.

The Aces were led by Finals MVP Chelsea Gray and regular-season MVP A’ja Wilson. Both players presented Harris with a No. 49 jersey.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

ok, that was a fun experience ? thank you @VP for having us ??

— A’ja Wilson (@_ajawilson22) August 25, 2023

Becky Hammon became the first rookie head coach in WNBA history to win a championship. She joined the Aces from the San Antonio Spurs, where she became the first woman to be a full-time assistant coach in NBA history.

Harris also praised the Aces for being role models and for serving the Las Vegas community through a team foundation, supporting student health and mental wellness, and pushing for equal pay for all women including athletes.

Harris also commended the Aces for speaking out in support of Griner, the Phoenix Mercury star was detained for 10 months in Russia before her release in a high-profile prisoner swap for arms dealer Viktor Bout.

“Our nation’s stronger because of your leadership,” Harris said. “For example, when an American citizen was wrongfully detained abroad, you organized and advocated in a ferocious extraordinary way. You organized folks, you lifted up the issue, you helped educate folks about what was at stake, all in support of Brittney Griner.”

Aces players also fought for broader rights and freedoms, including the right to vote and for LGBTQIA+ individuals and their families, Harris said.

Harris said the larger story is that, aside from basketball, the WNBA is a way to “inspire our young people and people across our nation to dream with ambition.”

The WNBA title is the first for the Aces, which is one of the league’s original eight franchises. The team began as the Utah Starzz from 1997 to 2002, then relocated to San Antonio as the Silver Stars (and later just the Stars) from 2003 to 2017. The team moved to Las Vegas before the 2018 season.

The Aces were the first major professional sports team to win a championship for Las Vegas, which also has the NFL’s Raiders and the NHL’s Golden Knights. The Golden Knights then won the Stanley Cup in June.

The White House had announced several weeks ago that President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, would host the Aces, but the assignment went to Harris after Biden extended a family vacation in the Lake Tahoe area through Saturday.

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