Raiders owner Mark Davis buys WNBA's Las Vegas Aces pending board approval

Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis is buying the Las Vegas Aces, the WNBA team announced on Thursday. It is pending approval by the WNBA’s Board of Governors.

“I am excited to announce that I have entered into an agreement to purchase the Las Vegas franchise in the WNBA from MGM Resorts International,” Davis said in a statement put out by the Aces. “I will have more to say once I receive official approval from the WNBA Board of Governors and have had a chance to speak with the players, coaches and administrators of the team.”

The Aces reached the 2020 WNBA Finals behind league MVP A’ja Wilson and back-to-back Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby. They were swept by the Seattle Storm in the best-of-five series.

“We can confirm we have entered into an agreement to sell the Las Vegas Aces to Mark Davis and are awaiting approval from the WNBA Board of Governors,” George Kliavkoff, president of entertainment and sports at MGM Resorts International, said in a statement. “Mark is a longtime champion of women’s basketball and we believe he is the right person to lead the Aces into a new era. We will continue our enthusiastic support of the WNBA, NBA and basketball in Las Vegas.”

The Aces are currently one of the best teams in the league and Davis regularly attended Aces games before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mark Davis courtside.
Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis, center, at Game 4 of the 2019 WNBA semifinals series between the Washington Mystics and the Las Vegas Aces. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Davis’ mark in Las Vegas expanding

Davis got approval to bring the Raiders from Oakland to Vegas in 2017. They opened their new stadium in 2020 and played their first campaign in Las Vegas amid the pandemic.

He has regularly attended Aces games since the team arrived in 2017. In 2019, Davis and the Raiders purchased 1,600 tickets to distribute to kids.

“The community benefits of professional sports are tremendous. In particular, the women who play for the Las Vegas Aces are great role models for the young women all over Southern Nevada,” Davis said in a statement in 2019. “We are excited to bring hundreds of those young women to see for themselves what can be accomplished through hard work and determination.”

He has also attended Vegas Golden Knights contests. The NHL approved the Golden Knights in 2016 and they began play in the 2017-18 season. They became the first team to sweep a first-round playoff series their inaugural season.

The three major sports teams all arrived within the past handful of years and are growing the professional sports scene in Vegas. Davis’ purchase of the Aces will expand the partnerships and crossovers the two are able to obtain, boosting the talented Aces squad. WNBA teams such as the Minnesota Lynx have reached new heights with not only loyal fan bases but the ability to share resources.

Aces poised for championship run

The Aces franchise began as the Utah Starzz for the inaugural WNBA season in 1997. They moved to San Antonio ahead of the 2003 season, becoming the Silver Stars and later only the Stars. MGM Resorts International brought them to Vegas in 2017 where they’ve played in the MGM-owned Mandalay Bay Events Center ever since.

Behind multiple seasons of first-round picks — Kelsey Plum (2017), Wilson (’18) and Jackie Young (’19) — the Aces have amassed strong young talent and become a leading contender for WNBA champions. They went 18-4 in the shortened 2020 season at IMG Academy in Florida and earned the No. 1 seed in the playoffs by defeating the Storm on the final day of the regular season.

The Aces and coach Bill Laimbeer were without Australian star center Liz Cambage, who opted out of the season because she was deemed high risk for the coronavirus. But they had veteran and Team USA player Angel McCoughtry after signing her during a hectic free agency after the league’s new CBA was implemented.

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