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Bouncing back from COVID: Sports highlights from 2021

2021 a year to remember in Vegas sports

Golden Knights

Fan favorites Marc-Andre Fleury and Ryan Reaves were traded to the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers, respectively; another loss in a semifinal round (Montreal); acquired star center Jack Eichel in a trade; fans returned to T-Mobile Arena.

NFL

Already set to host the Pro Bowl and league draft in 2022, Las Vegas in December was awarded the 2024 Super Bowl by league owners.

Aces

Finished with the WNBA’s No. 2 playoff seed and fell to Phoenix in a dramatic semifinal series; Kelsey Plum bounced back from a torn Achilles tendon to win Sixth Player of the Year. She and Jackie Young led USA Basketball’s 3-on-3 team to the inaugural Olympic gold, while A’ja Wilson led Team USA in scoring en route to 5-on-5 gold with Aces teammate Chelsea Gray.

UNLV

Football coach Marcus Arroyo won his first two games with the program and lost six others by one score; men’s basketball hired yet another new coach in Kevin Kruger, while women’s coach Lindy La Rocque thrived in her first full year on the job.

National Finals Rodeo

Returned to Las Vegas stronger than ever, with nearly 170,000 attending over 10 performances.

NASCAR

Las Vegas brothers Kyle and Kurt Busch each made the playoffs. Kurt, relegated to the scrap heap three years ago, won another race (Atlanta) as a springboard to joining Michael Jordan’s team at age 43.

Preps

Returned with a shortened spring season; Bishop Gorman returned to the top of the mountain in football in the fall, while Silverado, Moapa Valley and Pahranagat Valley also won state.

Golf

The LPGA committed to Las Vegas for at least three years with a new event, the Bank of Hope Match Play at Shadow Creek. Ally Ewing won the inaugural event. Because of COVID, Las Vegas once again received a second PGA Tour event after the Shriners Children’s Open, the CJ Cup. Rory McIlroy won for his 20th tour title; Sungjae Im won the Shriners.

UFC

It was the first major sport to return to competition after a COVID-related pause in 2020. The momentum created by that successful start propelled the company to its best financial year. UFC president Dana White said the company has thrived across all metrics: “It was the best year we ever had.”

Boxing

Major prize fighting returned. Eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao concluded his legendary career with a decision loss to Yordenis Ugas; WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury ended an iconic trilogy with Deontay Wilder with an 11th-round stoppage in the Fight of the Year; and Canelo Alvarez unified the 168-pound division with an 11th-round stoppage of Caleb Plant.

Soccer

The U.S. men’s national team won the Concacaf Gold Cup with a 1-0 victory over Mexico before a sold-out crowd of 61,514 fans at Allegiant Stadium.

Review-Journal staff

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