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  • Anthony Morrow

Las Vegas brought a Hollywood feel to WNBA's All-Star Week

The WNBA brought a Hollywood feel to Las Vegas this weekend. Fans were treated to a number of experiences that will stay with them for life. From the WNBA live convention to the skills competitions and actual game commissioner Catherine Engelbert along with partnering vendors, promotion and marketing departments, MIchelob arena staff, and others put together an amazing number of events fans, media, as well as WNBA players and staff all enjoyed.

The WNBA turned the Mandalay Bay convention center into a playground for basketball fans.

Notable collaborations included the Microsoft Clinic, KIA, U.S Bank, Starry, Carmax, Dellia’s Kitchen, along with others made great first impressions and re-assured returning fans the WNBA believes in giving its consumer the best possible experience. Fans were treated to meet and greets with players, executives, mascots, a series of panel discussions, autograph sessions, and games for a chance to win collectors' items and even one on one time with players.

The Orange Carpet featured stunning expressions of individualism through the attire worn by players and guest celebrity invites. It was great to see players in a different setting where they aren’t on the court giving their all. In some cases some players were difficult to immediately recognize as they in a sense transformed from competitor to regal like goddesses. Fans were also able to join in on the experience having a birds eye view from behind the media, and also the exit location for some of the participants where fans could get pictures and autographs.

Finally some on the court talk right? The skills challenge started around lunch for the average person not attending the events in Las Vegas, here in Sin City we’re on a different schedule so let's call the hours of noon-2pm breakfast with a twist. The skills challenge consists of 4 duo’s competing in a timed obstacle course relay feat passing, dribbling, layups, and shooting from a number of distances. The winner of this event would need the fastest time to obtain the trophy and title as the WNBA 2023 All-star Skills Challenge Champions.

Competing in the skills challenge representing the Atlanta Dream were Allisha Gray and Cheyenne Parker, representing the Dallas Wings Arike Ogunbowale and Satou Sabally, representing the Las Vegas Aces were Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum, and representing New York Liberty were Sabrina Ionescu and Courtney Vandersloot.

Aces Gray and Plum advanced to the final round completing the course with the best time at 45.9 seconds to take on the duo of New York Liberty’s were Sabrina Ionescu and Courtney Vandersloot. Chelsea Gray refused to lose as she brought it home with a great finish to the course hitting every shot and ended with a stop and pop from deep. The duo of the Aces Gray and Plum win the Kia Skills Challenge in front of a mostly home crowd.

The three-point contest was everything and more in terms of expectations. Six competitors

competing to prove supremacy from beyond the arc. Representing the Connecticut Suns DiJonai Carrington, New York liberty represented by Sabrina Ionescu, Indiana fever’s Kesley Mitchell participated, Dallas Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale competed, hometown Aces guard Jackie Young and Seattle Storm’s Sami Whitcomb represented their teams in the event.

Ogunbowale set the tone with the high score of 21 with Young, Ionescu, Whitcomb left to shoot. Ionescu quickly erased that lead with a 26-point performance to advance to final round, more to come on that. Sami Whitcomb though would best all competitors in the first round scoring 28 points. Whitcomb and Ogunbowale in the final round put up a valiant effort but the moment was all about Sabrina Ionescu. Ionescu had the single greatest performance in a three point contest in the history of its existence. We’ve seen players be in a zone, Inonescu was otherworldly missing only 2 shots, captivating the audience dropping a ridiculous 37 points 18 of which were in a row out of a total of 40 points possible. All hail Sabrina Ionescu as she receives the 3-point championship trophy to going along with a record that may stand for number of year.

The WNBA All Star game was star studded from pro and collegiate athletes to celebrity guests. Though not much defense was played, at all, I say respectfully, it still didn’t take away from a great display of the league's best giving fans a great showing. Brittany Griner and her storied comeback to the United States and the WNBA was a huge story, and co starring was Jewell Loyd who entered the 2023 WNBA All-Star Game on Saturday night as the league's leading scorer, and turning in a performance getting her the All-Star scoring record and MVP trophy.

Overall the WNBA and its partners succeeded in providing a fun and safe environment for fans and media to enjoy a fantastic product. The city of Las Vegas has now hosted a series of major events and I believe has become a strong competitor to host more events alike.

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