For WNBA champion Chelsea Gray, it doesn’t get any better than this exciting, always-evolving city. She explains why—and where to go when you visit.
Las Vegas Aces
By Matt Villano, Daily Beast
Most people know Las Vegas as the Entertainment Capital of the World, but in recent years the destination has earned another moniker: The Greatest Arena on Earth™.
Las Vegas now has professional sports teams in hockey, football, and women’s basketball; world-class arenas and a brand new, state-of-the-art stadium; competitive collegiate programs; minor league baseball and hockey squads; and dozens of sportsbooks. In short, over the last few years, Vegas has come of age as the best place in the country to see live sports.
This is one of the reasons WNBA champion Chelsea Gray was seriously pumped when she was signed as a free agent by the Las Vegas Aces in advance of the 2021 season. Gray previously spent four years playing for a pro team in Los Angeles, and a year in Connecticut.
For the five-foot, 11-inch guard, coming to Las Vegas was somewhat of a homecoming.
“I’m a West-Coast kid, born and raised,” she said, referring to her childhood in Hayward, California. “Playing in Las Vegas, where I spent time as a kid playing in tournaments, it just feels like home.”
Las Vegas as a Sports Town
One year into suiting up for the Aces, Gray said she was “blown away” by how much Las Vegas has “grown up” as a sports town. The way she sees it, the vibe is influenced by two distinct forces: the way locals have embraced the team, and the enthusiasm with which visitors turn out for their teams. Together, she added, this one-two punch creates a fervor that doesn’t exist in many other sports markets.
“I like to think of Las Vegas as a big small-town,” Gray said. “It’s a big city, but it’s also a small community where everyone supports each other. Fans know their stuff. They have pride. If you’re wearing ‘Las Vegas’ across your chest, they’re going to support you because they waited for so long to have teams of their own. Kids growing up now will never know Las Vegas as anything but a sports town.”
Interestingly, the city’s draw with vacationers is part of what makes it such an incredible city to play for. “Because Las Vegas is such a popular tourist destination, you have people from all over coming in,” Gray said. “These people want to see sports in real-time. Now that there are local teams, unless [people are] in town to cheer on their own teams, they’re gonna root for the hometown team every time.”
Delano Las Vegas
Perks of Playing in Las Vegas
Perhaps the best thing about playing for a professional sports team in Las Vegas is the community, according to Gray. Young people regularly recognize her when she is out and about around the Vegas Valley. She added that when she interacts with fans before or after games at The Michelob Ultra Arena in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, kids marvel at how they can interact with her.
Of course, another perk of being a star athlete in Las Vegas is amazing food after the game.
Gray’s favorite food is lamb chops, and she loves the ones that were recently on the menu at Zuma in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. (If you’re not into red meat, she also recommends the lobster.)
When Gray goes out for dinner with teammates, they like to hit the Brazilian/Japanese fusion Sushi Samba in the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian Resort Hotel & Casino for the eclectic flavors on the menu: sushi, robata, and more.
“The truth is that you can’t really go wrong with wherever you eat in Las Vegas,” she said. “It’s nice to be playing for a team in a city with so many great options.”
Gray said she and her teammates love getting together to watch games on TV and drink adult beverages at the Stage Door Casino, an old-school dive bar on Linq Lane across the street from Horseshoe Las Vegas.
Hoops For All
Of course, Gray is a baller, which means she’s always going to have opinions about where to shoot hoops.
While Gray admitted she isn’t an expert on public outdoor courts, she has sampled several of Las Vegas's finest pop-a-shot hoops. One of her favorite places to play? Level Up, a sports lounge between Hakkasan nightclub and the BetMGM Sportsbook at MGM Grand. Gray also said she has heard “great things” about the pop-a-shot hoops inside Emporium at AREA 15, an arts and entertainment destination with virtual golf, ax-throwing, and other diversions off the Strip.
“I love having a good time,” she said. “In Las Vegas, there certainly are plenty of places to do that.”