So much to choose from here! We could’ve doubled this list just by naming locals who went on to sporting glory: Greg Maddux, Andre Agassi, Bryce Harper. Here’s what we came up with:
If they ever erect a Mount Rushmore to Las Vegas sports, this will be the mountain they carve it on. The 1990 hoops squad united the city in a delirious new way — and highlighted something about our civic character, as the crowds thinned for subsequent Rebel teams that failed to recapture that glory. Vegas, we learned, mostly loves a winner.
This item is really about the long-awaited arrival of, and wild success of, major pro sports in Las Vegas, and while the Raiders seem unlikely to win anything but a participation trophy for a while, they’re part of that story, too.
After moving here from Oklahoma City in 1985, it’s become an annual December juggernaut that neatly solved a massive slow-tourism problem for the city. This is complemented by the 1996 opening of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and its massive NASCAR crowds. Both laid key groundwork for the idea of Las Vegas as a major sports town.
That was the 1996 Las Vegas Invitational, after which he did pretty good for himself.
Hagler-Hearns, Mayweather-Pacquiao — there have been a lot of great boxing matches in this town. But this notorious 1997 match, with its edge of violent lunacy — Tyson biting off a chunk of Holyfield’s ear — stands apart as a reminder that Vegas is also a city of anything-can-happen weirdness.