Meet Darren Waller: Aces Superfan
Raiders Pro Bowler becoming familiar face among courtside seats at The House
Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller is becoming an integral part of the front row faithful at the Michelob Ultra Arena during the summer months.
Waller has been spotted courtside more than a handful of times at Las Vegas Aces games taking in the action. What many don’t know is his love for the game of basketball runs deep.
“My dad is from New York,” he said. “So we’re basketball through and through. I’ve played since I was like five.”
With New York being known as “The Mecca of Basketball” and being home to both amateur and professional cultural symbols like Rucker Park and Madison Square Garden, Waller was surrounded by the game wherever he went.
He even tried his hand at the game as a teenager, playing three years while at North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, Georgia before turning his attention full-time to football.
However, Waller’s love for the game continued to grow as he watched one of his biggest influences up close and personal.
“My sister [Deanna] played basketball,” he said. “She had [Hall-of-Famer] Lisa Leslie posters on the wall and everything. I was always familiar with the WNBA.”
Now with a chance to watch WNBA greats of today’s game from that same vantage point, Waller has jumped at every opportunity his demanding schedule allows. When he does, he appears like any other rabid Aces fan that files into the Mandalay Bay during home games, ready to cheer his team to victory.
“Everybody on their roster brings a particular skillset,” he said. “You just look at their starting five and what they’ve been able to accomplish this year so far, it’s incredible.
“Then you have Vegas fans that are rabid for the [Vegas Golden Knights and Raiders]. Mix those two together and it makes for a hectic environment.”
A big factor for that community push has been Aces owner Mark Davis, who bought the team in February 2021. Davis also owns the Raiders.
“You just see his growing passion for wanting to serve women,” Waller said. “It takes men in positions like that, that have resources, that have the power and influence and I respect him a ton for doing what he’s done for the WNBA.
“I was at the Title IX Awards, seeing what all he did for them. It’s incredible because these women deserve a lot more respect than they get on a day-to-day basis.” Having played for the Davis-led Aces for the last two seasons, guard Kelsey Plum has been able to watch the groundwork laid by the then-new ownership group.
“Mark has been tremendous,” she said. “Just the support that he’s given us, it’s the reason why we’re in the position that we are and we’re going to continue to push. Without that backing, it’s really hard to win so we just appreciate what Mark has done and what he’s going to continue to do and the investment he has in women.”
Waller acknowledged and applauded Davis for the talent he’s been able to put on the floor at the Michelob Ultra Arena. The team has responded with a 26-10 record this season and will be seeded No. 1 in the WNBA Playoffs that are set to begin Wednesday, Aug. 17.
With community engagement increasing year-after-year, Waller encourages anybody who has yet to make the trip to The Strip to do so soon. While understanding there’s plenty of entry points into the league for a new fan, he suggests one that may result in maximum engagement.
“I would say you have to watch and give it a try,” he said. “I always tell people when I watch the NBA, there’s always at least one person on every team that I want to watch play no matter what their record is.
“The WNBA [has] talented players on every single team, it doesn’t matter where they are in the standings. The team has somebody that’s going to go out there and get buckets and they have role players that can contribute at a high-level as well. So give the league a try, I’m watching pretty much every game now.”
As for Waller, his favorite on the team is the aforementioned Plum, who made her first all-star team this season.
“I’ve got to say KP,” he said. “[Just] her work ethic, her intensity on the floor, her skillset. She can take over a game at any time, I’ve got to go with her.”
Plum, who is averaging 20.2 points this season on 46% shooting with a team-record 113 made three-pointers, views it as mutual respect between the two star athletes.
“That’s someone in the community that I admire,” she said. “Obviously, he’s a tremendous player himself so it’s a great compliment to get from him.”