The Las Vegas Aces have done it. They are the back-to-back WNBA Finals champions, the first franchise to accomplish the feat since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001-02.
Led by Finals MVP A’ja Wilson‘s frontcourt dominance and All-Star teammate Kelsey Plum‘s backcourt command, the Aces went a record-setting 34-6 during the regular season. Then, they swept through their first two postseason series before a showdown with the New York Liberty (who won 32 regular-season games) in the Finals.
The Aces bested the Liberty in three of the series’ four games to win the title Wednesday night in New York. However, the last one didn’t come easy.
Tied at 64 with 2:30 remaining, Vegas scored six points in the next minute of game time to grab a 70-64 lead. But New York wasn’t done. The team sank a deep three and a mid-range jumper, then blocked a shot on the other end, to give itself the opportunity to win on the game’s final possession. But Courtney Vandersloot’s three sailed long, the buzzer sounded and the Aces were champions once again.
— WNBA (@WNBA) October 19, 2023
On a celebratory championship podium, when asked by ESPN’s Holly Rowe about repeating as champion, Plum made sure to point first to her Lord and Savior.
“I want to thank God, Holly,” she said. “This is not possible without Him.
“This group has been through so much, but it’s here (pointing to her heart). There was a lot of years that we weren’t so super, but you can’t build a super team in a couple months. It takes years. I’m just really proud of this group.”
— WNBA (@WNBA) October 19, 2023
Plum was interviewed again by a local news station after the game and asked how it sounds to forever be known as a back-to-back champion.
“Sounds like Heaven,” she responded. “… It’s so gratifying. Oh my gosh, God is so good.”
Mentioning God is nothing new for Plum. The 29-year-old has spoken publicly about her faith often since entering the WNBA as the No. 1 overall pick in 2017 after an incredible collegiate career at Washington, even appearing on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in February 2020.
She shared earlier this year with GQ Sports that she wears a bracelet that says “faith” and that she reads a “Jesus Calling” 365-day devotional every morning.
“I just kind of start my day with it, meditate on it, focus on it, and then I go about my day,” she said about the devotional. “I just know that I’m so much of a better human when I’m grounded in something bigger than myself.”
That grounding comes not just in the highs of life, like the win on Wednesday, but also in the lows, like her struggles with her mental health and her 2020 Achilles tear.
“April 13, 2017, was one of the toughest days of my life,” she told “We Need To Talk” this June. “I get drafted No. 1. … I was just in a really low point. I felt like I didn’t really have a purpose, and I just felt so empty, so unfulfilled.
“By the grace of God, I tore my Achilles. My life, I don’t like how it is, let’s change it. So it was a complete spiritual, physical, emotional revamp. Changed my perspective, changed how I live on a day-to-day [basis]. Still to this day I think it was the best thing for my career.”
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“I’m super grateful,” Plum said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast, “because I think that [God has] always really been very precise about exactly where He wanted me to be and He’s put certain people in my life to really help me. I’m just super grateful, so I think for me, as I continue to grow into a woman and a woman of faith, I try to make sure that I’m a light.”
Winning the WNBA Finals two years in a row has certainly given Plum an opportunity for God’s light to shine through her. And with many of Las Vegas’ key players and coaches expected to return in 2024, a third title may be in view.
Whatever happens, Plum is sure that it is God who is directing her steps.
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