Bill Laimbeer Says WNBA Wouldn't Let All-Stars Fly First Class to Game

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistAugust 2, 2019

Team Wilson head coach Bill Laimbeer, center, laughs with his team during the second half of a WNBA All-Star basketball game against Team Delle Donne, Saturday, July 27, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
John Locher/Associated Press

Las Vegas Aces coach and president of basketball operations Bill Laimbeer's plan to reward players during the 2019 WNBA All-Star Weekend was thwarted by the league. 

Laimbeer explained that he had set aside funds to make first-class travel possible, but WNBA officials did not permit him to go through with the plan, per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN):

"I put $20,000 in our budget to fly the players first class, and the league said you couldn't do that. The league refused to let us do that. I made a complaint at the board of governors meeting about that specific issue. They are our best assets, they are our All-Stars; treat them with respect. I apologized to them that I couldn't get that done."

WNBA chief operating officer Christy Hedgpeth said the decision was made in order to prevent a potential "unfair advantage":

"MGM Resorts and the Aces were highly engaged throughout the yearlong planning for what became a truly memorable All-Star weekend, including bringing to the table enhancements to the player experience. While we worked together on many of those elements, there were others that we determined might create an unfair advantage for the team moving forward. WNBA players are world-class athletes and, ultimately, we are committed to working with them and our other stakeholders to develop an economic model that can support additional improvements to the player experience throughout the year, including the All-Star Game."

Though first-class travel was not allowed as a perk, the league did, however, grant Laimbeer's request to provide All-Stars suites rather than standard hotel rooms as well as giving each player four tickets to the game instead of the typical two.

Laimbeer also revealed that the Aces, who hosted 2019 All-Star weekend, offered players free hotel rooms to make the trip to Las Vegas and help market the event.

Aces star A'ja Wilson called this year's showcase "electric," while Washington Mystics star Elena Delle Donne noted the festivities were "bigger and grander" in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas played host to what was a thrilling 129-126 victory for Team Wilson over Team Delle Donne. Indiana Fever star Erica Wheeler was named MVP as she knocked down a record-tying seven three-pointers en route to a game-high 25 points.