Being a girl of the 1950s, before big money was spent on girls’ athletics, I would never have been interested in seeing a girls’ basketball game. Heck, way back when, in school, some of the positions in girls’ basketball couldn’t even go beyond mid-court.
Last Wednesday, things changed. My friend Gerri had been invited to see the Las Vegas Aces. (Yes, though Las Vegas doesn’t have an NBA team, we do have a WNBA team.) The information that a game was being held that night was pretty much news to be because I haven’t read a sports page in years. Gerri said the game would be free for me (courtesy of the M Resort) AND would include a bus ride to and from the stadium. OK, why not?
The Las Vegas Aces play home games at Mandalay Bay’s Events Center. Walking to the center (a reasonably long walk), one passes lots of clean and colorful places to buy food — everything from barbecue to popcorn — AND booths to purchase Aces logo wear.
We get to our seats (center court) and though the seats were rather narrow, the view was great and we heard lots of music and MC-type promotions early on. Before the game, a bunch of kids in gold jackets ran on the basketball floor and started throwing t-shirts to the audience. Folks stood and yelled for the privilege of catching a shirt. What is it about adults vying with kids for free stuff?
Some kind of mid-court ceremony took place with two kids, and then the teams were introduced, with the most noise and light activity reserved for the introduction of the Las Vegas Aces. The Aces’ warm-up clothes appeared to be all black; the opponents’ outfits were a bright yellow. (I liked the yellow.)
Then the game started. Wow, on each team was one very tall girl (ours, Liz Cambage, is 6’8″) and all the the players could dribble and run as much (it seemed to me) as the male pros. Shooting wasn’t the greatest (missed shots on both sides), but bit by bit the game went on and I found I was loving it! I could see the action and understand it way better than hockey, and the game was close. I had to ask the people around me for a brief history of the team and whether the Aces were a decent team. (“Not so good last year, but doing better this year; they are in second place,” I was told.) Got it.
The more I watched; the more I loved ladies pro basketball. The players are all business. Boobs are strapped down; loose shorts or leg warmers were everywhere; energy was in abundance. Gerri was worried about one of the referees. All that running back and forth seemed to take a toll, but come the second half, that same ref returned.
A few men were with our group and darned if they didn’t enjoy the game just as much as the women did. The Aces aren’t just for chic viewers, but for true sports fans.
And after a nip and tuck fight, our team, the Aces, won the game 60 to 56! Perfect.
The Aces, come to find out, are owned by MGM Resorts International and are in their second season in Sin City. The team had previously played in Salt Lake City (as the Utah Starzz) and San Antonio (as the San Antonio Stars). The Aces’ coach is 6’11” former NBA star Bill Lambeer. Also, one of the men pointed out that two of Seattle’s best players were injured and weren’t playing that night. Nonetheless, the Aces temporarily took over first place from Seattle in the Western Division because of last Wednesday’s victory.
The stadium was half to three-quarters full we guessed. Lots of young people were in the crowd, making basketball in Las Vegas definitely a family-friendly-activity.
The WNBA is supported by the NBA because the thought is that the women’s league will help grow basketball as a sport. We were part of an enthusiastic crowd and saw lots of Aces t-shirts. The word must be getting out.
And it finally, even got to me!