It truly is amazing how far Las Vegas has come as a sports community when the announcement of an MLB franchise relocating to the market is not a runaway choice as the top sports moment of the year.
It probably wouldn’t even be in my top five. We’ve come too far for the anticipation of future games being played at a stadium — of which we still haven’t seen a design — to move the needle.
Call us back when you’re in the World Series. You know, if cellphones are even a thing at that point. By the time the Athletics are in the Fall Classic, we’ll probably be able to teleport our holograms anywhere on the planet and have conversations face-to-face.
But anyway, this was supposed to be about the best moments of 2023, and there were plenty of them for our sports community.
The UNLV football team hosting a Mountain West championship game and playing in a bowl game in the first year under Barry Odom.
A tremendous year for women’s basketball, with the Aces continuing to build a dynasty with another title and the Lady Rebels going to a second consecutive NCAA Tournament under Lindy La Rocque, a Las Vegan who has her team in the midst of another remarkable season.
Jon Jones, perhaps the greatest UFC fighter in history, returning from a three-year absence and moving up a weight class to win the heavyweight title over Ciryl Gane at T-Mobile Arena.
The overwhelming smell of cigar smoke in the locker room after the Raiders won their first game following the firing of coach Josh McDaniels.
Allegiant Stadium will be forever forged on the death certificate of Pac-12 football as the host of the final game in league history when Washington secured a College Football Playoff berth by beating Oregon.
It wasn’t all about endings, though. The NBA in-season tournament was born, and LeBron James did something Michael Jordan never did by taking home the trophy in Las Vegas.
Case closed on best resume ever?
Then there were those couple of months when we had our commute times tripled every day so that European guys could drive 200 mph down the Strip at midnight.
Can’t wait for that to come back.
I tend to enjoy the more surreal, so I was a fan of the spectacle that was the return of the XFL with the first game played on a field that looked like I was in charge of watering, though the real issue was a truck tire mark that went straight across the field.
Or when Victor Wembanyama was the biggest star in town for several days in the NBA Summer League and crossed over to the entertainment world through some strange accusation that Britney Spears had been pushed to the ground by his bodyguards.
Like, what? That’s an actual sentence I just wrote.
And I came full circle for my college self when I got to step on the Slamball court for a few minutes and try out the trampolines when the sport returned after a long hiatus and set up shop in Las Vegas.
But there are two that stand out far above the rest.
I still can’t believe the NCAA Tournament came to Las Vegas. Until the games tipped off at T-Mobile Arena, it felt like it was never going to happen.
And then we got treated to an all-time moment when Las Vegas native Julian Strawther hit a game-winning shot from nearly midcourt to lift Gonzaga over UCLA.
It was tough to top. But William Karlsson did it.
Sure, the Golden Knights winning the Stanley Cup and fulfilling owner Bill Foley’s brash prognostication was massive. A crowning achievement for an organization and city that were forever bonded after a mass shooting on the Strip in 2017.
The victory parade enabled us to see Karlsson on full display. His words, however slurred they were, will be remembered forever by the team’s fan base.
What a speech. What a year.