Column: 2019 All-Star? Vegas, Baby – Vegas?

Photo Credit: Amelinda B. Lee

A credo of mine is that it is never too early to begin prognosticating and predicting the future.

With the 2018 All-Star weekend in full force in the Twin Cities, a conversation among WNBA fans has to be where next season’s festivities will emanate from.

Next year’s will be the last All-Star Game prior to 2021 because of players taking to the international courts of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

No bidders have been announced yet, and it all depends on who decides to give it a try. However, one city in today’s current WNBA climate simply makes too much sense.

Las Vegas has practically become the W’s version of the iPhone X – the shiny, new, cutting-edge gadget or gizmo one simply cannot get enough of. When it was announced late last year that the San Antonio Stars were being bought by MGM Resorts and moving to Las Vegas, fans everywhere felt for those in the Alamo City that were losing their team.

An old saying in life is that there is only one chance to make a good first impression. Sin City appears to have done just that.

The Las Vegas Aces have become, arguably, the story of the 2018 WNBA season – a season that has been tabbed by many a hoops pundit as the best ever of the 22 the W has graced us with. In their final season in San Antonio, the Stars were a not-so-robust 8-26 and questions were abound about first-overall draft pick Kelsey Plum’s long-term future with the organization.

Then came the announcement of the sale to MGM Resorts.

Then came the move to Las Vegas.

Then came the hiring of Bill Laimbeer as head coach from the question mark that has become the New York Liberty.

Then came the oh-so-Vegas announcement of the Aces team name.

Then came the drafting of A’ja Wilson out of South Carolina.

Then came the regular season which has the Aces in contention for one of the eight playoff berths.

The Aces are a team and franchise that appears to be going in one direction – up. And with it has come fan support and an ownership group at MGM that is putting real resources into making the Aces a success.

It also makes sense from a WNBA perspective. As a league that is growing and looking to grow even further, what better place for one of its signature events than a city that already has a robust basketball presence with the NBA Summer League. Also, what better place to hold the All-Star Game than in a city that is a major international tourist destination.

Name one person who would pass up a trip to Vegas. Our guess is that person does not exist.
Sorry, but if MGM Resorts says it will bid for the 2019 All-Star weekend, the Los Angeles’, Atlanta’s, Chicago’s, and Dallas’ of the world (all worthy candidates in their own rights) will have to wait their respective turns after the flame is extinguished from the Olympic cauldron in Tokyo.

Let us also remember that the first two All-Star weekends under the tenure of president Lisa Borders have been held in cities that have never hosted. Seattle never had the All-Star Game prior to last season and Minneapolis did not have said All-Star Game until this year. The lion’s share of All-Star Games before Borders was tapped as WNBA president were held in Phoenix, Connecticut, and New York.

Las Vegas has not only never hosted the All-Star Game, but – of course – it never even had a WNBA franchise until this year. And something tells us if the WNBA announces Vegas as the site of All-Star 2019, it would put a 40-watt grin on NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s face.

Remember, the NBA once staged the All-Star Game at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas in 2007. They now have a hockey team – the Vegas Golden Knights, and the Oakland Raiders will be arriving in the City of Sin not too far from now. The way things are going, Las Vegas will be on the shortlist with Seattle and Mexico City for the NBA’s expansion aspirations as it was for the NHL (in the case of Sin City and the Emerald City).

While leaving San Antonio had to be tough for displaced Stars fans, the opportunity to strike at a hungry professional sports market (and social hotspot) such as Vegas had to be too much for the WNBA to even think of passing up.

One frustration of WNBA fans is that the All-Star Game itself appears to be a standalone event whereas the NBA has turned said game into an entire weekend’s worth of events. Having the game in Las Vegas automatically turns it into an event…because Vegas.

It is – after all – never too early to peer into the future. And while that future may be unclear despite how many times we peer into our crystal basketballs, do not be surprised if when that picture transforms from murky to clear that an announcement of Las Vegas as 2019 All-Star host becomes visible in plain view.

By: Akiem Bailum (@AkiemBailum on Twitter, Instagram)

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