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Caitlin Clark scored 20 in WNBA debut on Tuesday night

Life comes at you fast when you’re the savior of women’s basketball.

Not even two months after finishing up her historic collegiate career with the Iowa Hawkeyes, guard Caitlin Clark made her WNBA debut for the Indiana Fever on Tuesday night. Clark scored a team-high 20 points for the Fever, but it was to no avail in a 92-71 to the Connecticut Sun at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Clark actually struggled a lot before halftime and didn’t really get things going until the second half. In addition to her 20 points, Clark also committed 10 turnovers, which was a record for a WNBA debut.

Back to the Sun and the Mohegan Sun Arena. A sell-out crowd of over 8,900 filled the place for Connecticut’s season opener, marking the first time the franchise had sold out its home opener since its inaugural season in 2003.

That’s saying a lot for an organization that finished 27-13 a year ago and lost in the WNBA semifinals.

The bottom line is this: The Caitlin Clark effect is real, at least early on in her professional career.

It figured to be a rocky start for Clark in terms of team accomplishments. After all, the Fever finished 13-27 a year ago, which was why they were able to select Clark with the first pick of the WNBA Draft on April 15. Indiana hasn’t won a title since 2012 and hasn’t been to the finals since 2015. So, it will be interesting to see how long it takes Clark to lift her new franchise, or even if she has enough talent to make much of a difference in the end.

We will see an immediate effect in terms of attendance, as the Fever are set to make their 2024 home debut vs. the New York Liberty at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Thursday night.

The Liberty lost in the WNBA finals last season, so it’s likely to be another long night for the Fever, but there will certainly be a lot of fans in attendance to witness Clark’s regular-season home debut. Over 13,000 fans filled the Gainbridge Fieldhouse to watch Clark make her preseason home debut recently, so don’t be shocked if just about every one of the 17-plus thousand seats is full on Thursday night.

It will be interesting to see what effect Clark has on the WNBA’s television ratings. We already know the 2024 WNBA Draft drew over 2.4 million viewers, a record number that was a 42 percent increase over the previous year’s draft. 

Clark, the leading scorer in the history of women’s college basketball, was no doubt responsible for helping set television records during the Hawkeyes march to the final of the Women’s 2024 NCAA Tournament.

The WNBA hasn’t reached over one million viewers since 2008, but the numbers are up in recent years (the league averaged 505,000 viewers a season ago), and the ratings are expected to increase even more with Clark now the new face of the league.

In addition to Clark, Angel Reese, whose LSU Tigers defeated Iowa in the 2023 women’s final, is now a rookie in the WNBA. Reese isn’t quite as big a name as Clark, but she was a huge enough collegiate rival that any future matchup between the two will make headlines at the professional level.

There is no doubt that women’s college basketball is now more popular than ever. The WNBA is also on the rise in terms of viewership and attendance.

It would be disingenuous to even suggest that Caitlin Clark isn’t at least partially responsible for the overall increase in popularity of women’s basketball.

How far she can take the sport remains to be seen.


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