By: Maximillian O. Espinoza
The Las Vegas Aces have recently won the 2023 WNBA Finals against the New York Liberty achieving back-to-back titles in consecutive years, a feat that hadn't been accomplished in the league since the Los Angeles Sparks did it in 2001-02. One of the crucial pieces to Las Vegas’ success has been with the addition of Chelsea Gray, who has continually been one of the best Point Guards in the league since she entered into the WNBA. But Chelsea Gray’s success in the WNBA is a reflection of the dominance that Gray used to exude in her high school days in NorCal. So as the WNBA heads into its off-season, let’s take a look back on the illustrious career of Chelsea Gray, and her path to the WNBA.
Chelsea Gray played highschool basketball at St. Mary’s High School, where she led the Rams to back-to-back 30+ win seasons and CIF Division 3 Women’s State Championships in her junior and senior year. However, Chelsea Gray’s senior year was arguably her most impressive, as she was named a McDonald’s All-American, a WBCA All-American, received Co-Player of the Year and first team honors on Parade’s 2010 All-America squad, was named the 2010 Gatorade Player of the Year, and was one of five finalists for the 2010 Naismith National Player of the Year. These accomplishments along with her 2,164 career points at St. Mary’s High School made Chelsea Gray a consensus 5-star prospect and she was ranked 4th overall on ESPN Top 100 Women’s list for the class of 2010. Chelsea Gray decided to commit to Duke University after capping off a legendary high school career at St. Mary’s.
Chelsea Gray had an excellent career at Duke, as she made the All-ACC Rookie team as a freshman, was voted the ACC Co-Player of the Year by the league’s coaches as a junior, and received All-America selection as a sophomore and junior. Chelsea Gray also guided Duke to two ACC Tournament Championships, three ACC regular season titles and three trips to the NCAA Elite Eight over her four years at Duke University. This along with her 1,210 career points, 545 assists, and 120 wins established Gray as one of the top point guards in Duke’s history. Even while only playing 17 games in the 2013-14 NCAA season, Gray was listed on the John R. Wooden Award midseason list, Naismith and Wade Watch candidate for National Player of the Year, and the Nancy Lieberman Award Watch List, which is given to the top point guard in the nation.
Chelsea Gray started her WNBA career in 2014 where she was drafted 11th overall by the Connecticut Sun while recovering from a fractured kneecap, Gray played for the Sun in the 2015 season in which she averaged 6.9 points per game. Chelsea Gray was traded to the Los Angeles Sparks prior to the 2016 season where she served as a key bench player for the Los Angeles Sparks in their 2016 Championship run, winning her first WNBA Championship title in just her second year. Chelsea Gray stayed with the Sparks for 4 more seasons where she was a 3x WNBA All Star from 2017-19, made the All-WNBA Second Team in 2017, and made All-WNBA First Team in 2019. Prior to the 2021 WNBA season, Gray signed a two year deal with the Las Vegas Aces during free agency, where she was named a WNBA All Star in 2021, and in 2022 Chelsea Gray led the Las Vegas Aces to the WNBA Commissioner's Cup in-season championship, winning the Commissioner's Cup MVP, and she also led the Las Vegas Aces to it first WNBA Championship Title. Heading into the 2023 WNBA Season Chelsea Gray re-signed with the Las Vegas Aces on a multi-year deal and she lived up to her contract as Gray achieved career bests in Points Per Game (15.3 PPG), Assists (7.3 APG), and Rebounds (RPG). Gray was also selected to her 5th WNBA All-Star Game and was selected to the All-WNBA Second Team for a second time en route to the Las Vegas Aces back-to-back championship title run.
Although Chelsea Gray was unable to play in Game 4 of the 2023 WNBA Finals after sustaining a foot injury. Her offensive excellence and consistency not only cemented herself as one of the best Point Guards in the WNBA, but also defined her character as she’s shown time and time again that even when faced against adversity, she rises to the occasion and exceeds the expectations placed upon her. With the WNBA recently announcing that the Bay Area will receive an expansion franchise in 2025, it gives an opportunity for girls to be inspired by women like Chelsea Gray, who show that perseverance is essential for greatness.