6:36 PM ET

The doubters have been around for a long time.

The Rapid City, South Dakota, guard was too small and slow to be a Division I college basketball star. She wasn't allowed to play in the NBA. She wouldn't do well on an NBA bench. She was not prepared to be a head coach.

A six-time All-Star, an All-American, and a former assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs, Hammon has made a career of proving people wrong.

On Sunday, she became a championship coach, guiding Las Vegas to the title with a 78-71 victory over the Connecticut Sun in the final game of the series. She is the first woman to win a title as a head coach in the history of the league. Van Chancellor had been a college and high school head coach for more than three decades when he won the inaugural WNBA championship.

The thing she was proudest of was the way the players trusted each other, and that's what she said after the game. The message she kept emphasizing was a big factor in the title.

They are amazing on the court, but they are also amazing people. The players care about each other. It has been enjoyable. They are big time players. They like big time moments.

Five NBA rookies have won a league title. Nick Nurse was a head coach for several years at other levels of basketball before he was hired by the Raptors.

The first woman head coach in one of the four major men's professional league in the United States was thought to be one of the candidates. She was hired as the head coach of the Aces in December after eight years as an assistant to Popovich.

She isn't wired to see this title as redemption or revenge against NBA teams that didn't give her a chance. She knows that an NBA player would have been an NBA head coach sooner than later if she had a career like that.

If my name was Brian and I played 16 years in the NBA, I would have been hired and fired a few times as an NBA coach already. It's just what it is.

Aces players say empowerment is a big part of Becky Hammon's coaching philosophy. "I feel like I can elevate to the level she wants me to be because now I believe in myself," guard Kelsey Plum said. Catalina Fragoso/NBAE via Getty Images

Analyzing things has always been a staple of Hammon's thinking. She has been living this plot line many times. If she didn't win a title right away, some would say she wasn't ready to be a head coach in either league.

Some will say it's because she had great players, such as A'ja Wilson, or that the title isn't as hard to win now that she has won in the WNBA. With all the top talent in the world concentrated into 12 teams as opposed to the NBA's 30, it's just as hard to win a title in the WNBA.

The critics and doubters can say what they please. She doesn't act or talk like she has an axe. She seems determined.

When she puts her mind to something, there's no stopping her. She wants to be a great leader. She was lucky to have coaches who saw the bigger picture. It's not just about basketball, it's also about life.

When asked if the move to Las Vegas had been a success, she said it had been even better.

She said that she had made one of the best decisions. It's not just because of the organization, it's also my team. This team is wonderful. I like interacting with them. It has been a lot of work, but it has been enjoyable.

With a knack for hitting shots in the clutch, Becky Hammon was nicknamed "Big Shot Becky" during her 16-year WNBA career. D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images

Things in her life have worked out, she says. She doesn't say that they worked.

"You knew she was going to be a coach," said Miller, who was an assistant at Colorado State at the time. She was smart and savvy. She was an incredible shot maker and also had great knowledge, which helped her achieve her career goals. Seeing and understanding things before they happen.

All that would happen for her was unimaginable. The former New York Liberty and San Antonio star says that even though he didn't make the U.S. Olympic team and didn't get an NBA head coaching job, he still had a silver lining.

You are in charge of how you walk the route once you are on it, but you are not always in charge of your route.

35 professional players from the ABL were among the 50 selected by the WNBA teams when the draft was still four rounds in 1999. The group included the general manager Natalie Williams and the chief business development officer, both of whom were in the top five. The other three picks were non- ABL pros.

She played longer in the NBA than any of the college seniors, even though she wasn't selected. She played longer than all but one of the 1999 draftees.


The Las Vegas Aces defeated the Sun in the second game of the finals of the women's basketball league.

After an injury ended her 2003 campaign, she knew it would hurt her chances of making the US Olympic team. When she wanted to compete in the Olympics, she chose to play for another country. She got citizenship because of her time in Russia. She won a bronze medal in Beijing.

The path I was meant to take was not USA Basketball. My journey was different.

When she was 30 years old, a trade to San Antonio opened a new era for her as an elite point guard. She spent the year in San Antonio hanging around Spurs practices and getting to know Popovich after her second knee injury in as many years.

She said that her playing career led to her becoming a coach. I wouldn't have been able to be around Pop in San Antonio if it weren't for the NBA.

After the Spurs lost to Minnesota in the playoffs, she knew she wanted to join the team's staff. She was the head coach of the Spurs in the Las Vegas Summer League. When Popovich was ejected from a game in 2020, she was the acting head coach.

He has a lot of gratitude for Popovich. He invested in me. I spent a lot of time next to him at games, film sessions, and dinners.

Every milestone with the Spurs meant more to her than the other way around. She understood that being a woman in the NBA made her an inspiration to a lot of other people. She didn't want to be in a spotlight.

When Pop hired me, we didn't know what to expect. I'm just a kid that likes basketball. I was interested in learning. I would do something that other assistants were doing but it was on SportsCenter. Not everyone was a fan. Some people didn't want me to go up. I tried to handle it as well as possible.

It's out of my control. I don't know if they'll put me on the show or not. I was trying to do a good job. Whether I'm on the Spurs bench or here, I want to be present and focused on my team.

Becky Hammon was an assistant coach on Gregg Popovich's NBA staff in San Antonio for eight seasons. Chris Gardner/Getty Images

Bill Laimbeer was the team's head coach when the Stars moved to Las Vegas. The Seattle Storm defeated the Aces in the finals in 2020 but then lost to the Mercury in the semifinals last year.

Davis tried to lure Hammon to take over. Davis got to know her a little bit during the NBA season when the San Antonio Spurs retired her number.

It's more than four times as much as the supermax salary for the players this season, which ruffled some WNBA feathers. She had the power to stay in the NBA because her salary is not bargained like the players'.

At first, I was unsure about leaving the NBA. It was a huge leap for me.

She learned during her time in the NBA that it was important to make allowances and know when to give people the benefit of the doubt. She didn't react if someone said something that was seen as sexist. She wondered if they meant it that way or if they just said the wrong thing. She learned to understand them while helping them understand her.

"You have to get a tough skin, but you also have to know how to read people's intentions," he said. It was lonely sometimes. It can get tiring when you are the only one in the room all the time.

The skill of the players, the challenges of scouting and game planning, and the sometimes needed improvising were some of the things that Hammon enjoyed. She said it's the same in the NBA.

With an atmosphere that feels like family, the staff surrounding her has made the transition easy.

"I like coming to work because of the people I get to see and spend time with." When I first talked to them, it was obvious that they were doing something special. I would like to be involved in that.

Becky Hammon's oldest son, 7-year-old Cayden Milano Hammon, is a regular at Aces' practices and games. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

They are familiar with the Aces. You would think that Cayden was coaching the game when he sat through the warm ups. Samuel is more into toys than basketball. He wore the same gear as his brother before a recent game at the Ultra Arena, where the players, fans, and media know the boys.

Cayden knows a lot about the game. He said that his favorite thing about watching the Aces is when she makes the buzzers.

The boys liked hanging around the Spurs players, but that was more like a fistbump and a nod.

The men were 888-609- 888-609- 888-609- The players will sit there and talk to them, ask them questions, give them hugs, and attend their birthday parties. It feels like there is more of a nurturing feeling. My boys are enjoying it.

It's part of Hammon's style as well. Game 1 of the Finals showed that she is tough and willing to speak her mind when necessary. Her style is based on empowerment.

Her philosophy is freedom within structure. I need you to be yourself, but here's some structure. I want everyone to be themselves, and I want to be myself as well.

When the team was in San Antonio, Plum struggled with confidence. The best season of her career has been this one.

Plum said she didn't know what feeling of empowerment meant until she was given it. That isn't a shot at anyone. It's just the reality of having a good coach. It's hard on me but she believes in me and I can do this. I can elevate to the level she wants me to be because I believe in myself.

The women's league champion was led by Hammon. Is it possible that the NBA will reconsider her? What will happen in the future? He isn't concerned about it. She loves the league so much that this magical season just adds to her love for it.

There are a lot of things to do. The last time a team won back-to-back titles was in 2001. When she was with New York, she was on the losing side of the title game. Her team would be the next to repeat.

Hammon can begin to think about that soon. This is the time for the team to shine.