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Graney: Aces stand on their own in Las Vegas sports history

Forget about your sports inclination to compare and contrast. Put aside your belief that all things must be argued when it comes to the better team, the better athletes, the more impressive wins and titles.

And enjoy the Aces for what they were this season. A more than deserving WNBA champion.

They stand alone as the first major professional sports franchise from Las Vegas to win a title.

No one can take that from them. Not now. Not ever.

They had a parade along the Strip in honor of the Aces on Tuesday, and you couldn’t find a soul who didn’t believe the team shouldn’t be placed atop its own pedestal in sports history across Southern Nevada.

There were bands and cheerleaders and balloon collages. Music blared. Children danced. People screamed. Lines three deep packed the sidewalks hours before the festivities began.

The governor stood on a stage and barked with guard Kelsey Plum.

Yes. Steve Sisolak did his best woof-woof impression.

There were a lot of speeches by players with a lot of (bleeps). Lots and lots of (bleeps).

Thank goodness for delays on live TV. Cover your ears, kids.

It was a scene, man.

By design

“I said it before, and I’ll say it now,” Aces owner Mark Davis told the roaring crowd. “To the greatest fans in professional sports … Las Vegas — we are world champions!”

Said team president Nikki Fargas: “Make no mistake about it — this didn’t happen by chance. This was by design.”

This is what we do. We debate the importance of certain milestones and moments. We disagree about the greatest of all time — it’s Jordan, by the way —and which championships are more impressive than others.

It’s part of what makes watching and cheering sports so memorable. So enjoyable. So fantastically maddening.

The city’s list of champions at different levels all deserve recognition. But the Aces are at the top of such a collection. For what they did. For how they will be remembered five and 10 and 20 years from now.

“I think this is a historic team,” general manager Natalie Williams said. “The signage on the stage is ‘History made.’ From top to bottom, it was amazing.”

They were always the best. The top playoff seed that nearly swept all awards. Coach of the Year. Most Valuable Player. Defensive Player of the Year. Commissioner’s Cup MVP. WNBA Finals MVP. All-Star Game MVP. Most Improved.

“I’m not from the desert, but I’m learning,” Aces coach Becky Hammon said. “There’s a lot of things that go into this. I’m super blessed to be here. At the end of the day, representation and showing up counts. It matters. I got to show up with a roster! I got a roster!”

Of great players, to be sure.

It’s tough to repeat in any league, but make the Aces a clear favorite. The core group returns, and many of those star players you have come to know are locked up contractually through 2024.

It will be a tougher side to beat than discovering an inch of breathing room around the parade stage.

Wanted the parade

“We’d love to win the championship next year, but to accomplish everything we did in the same way is going to be hard to do,” Williams said. “(This season) will be hard to top. We knew we had an opportunity. We talked about it before the season about doing something historic.

“We wanted to shut down the Strip for (a parade). That was our goal. But to now look back and see everything that was accomplished in just one season is unbelievable. It definitely exceeded expectations of what we thought could happen.”

It all did. It happened. Even the parade.

Lots of cheering and (bleeps).

Sports is about comparing and contrasting. Not this time. This team stands on its own.

Barked its way to the top.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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