• Home
  • Other
  • The start to Caitlin Clark’s WNBA career shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone

Share & Comment:

The start to Caitlin Clark’s WNBA career shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone

Just a dozen or so games into her WNBA career, there is no doubt that guard Caitlin Clark is a lightning rod of controversy.

Clark was already the most talked about player in the history of women’s basketball when she became the all-time leading scorer at the collegiate level during her four years at Iowa. While on her college basketball journey, one that included back-to-back losses in the national championship game, she also made the public tune into the sport in record numbers. 

After her college career ended with a loss to South Carolina in the national title game, Clark declared for the 2024 WNBA draft and was selected first, overall, by the Indiana Fever.

Speaking of the Fever, what kind of impact has Clark had on her new team? A huge one…at least in terms of attendance. Indiana has drawn over 82,000 fans to five home games, a number that has already surpassed the 81-plus thousand fans who attended all 20 home games in 2023. 

How about television ratings? Clark’s rookie season is drawing numbers that the WNBA hasn’t seen in over 20 years, with four games already eclipsing one million viewers for both ABC and ESPN. The three most-watched contests since 2002 have occurred this season and have involved Clark and the Fever. A fourth game, one that didn’t include Indiana, drew over 1.3 million viewers for ABC on May 18.

What about Clark’s impact on the Fever’s record? It hasn’t been much of one. Through 12 games, Indiana is 3-9 and in next to last place in the Eastern Conference.

What is Clark doing individually? She’s doing okay, but just okay. She’s averaging 16.8 points per game which is the 14th best mark in the league and well behind Las Vegas Aces center A’Ja Wilson, who is leading the way in scoring at 28.3 points per game.

So, the Fever are struggling to stay out of the cellar, while Clark is struggling to make a huge impact during her rookie season.

No kidding on both fronts.

You mean to tell me that the team that was bad enough to earn the top pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft isn’t suddenly a juggernaut because of one player? You mean to tell me that Clark is struggling to make an impact vs. professionals who have been at it a lot longer than her?

Why is anyone shocked by this? It’s never a surprise when a highly thought-of male athlete struggles during his rookie season and fails to take his team to another level right away. Even if a player doesn’t struggle out of the gate, it usually takes a while for him to make his team a contender. For example, Michael Jordan may have averaged 28.2 points per game during his 1984/1985 rookie season, numbers good enough to be named Rookie of the Year, but the Bulls only won 38 games. LeBron James may have averaged 20.9 points per game during his 2003/2004 rookie campaign, numbers good enough to earn him Rookie of the Year honors, but the Cavaliers only won 35 games.

Also, why is everyone surprised that Clark is being aggressively targeted by Fever opponents, like she was when Chennedy Carter screamed an expletive in her direction and flagrantly knocked her to the court in a game vs. the Chicago Sky on June 1?

Clark is a bit of a bleep talker and was seen dishing some of it out to Carter right before this happened. In other words, Clark is a competitor, and so is Carter. Carter is also probably a little jealous of this phenom who is getting all of the attention. Maybe Carter doesn’t think much of Clark’s game. In fact, she said exactly that on social media shortly after her controversial foul on the rookie, insisting that Clark is a three-point shooter and nothing more than that.

A young phenom, someone who is seen as a generational talent, is being targeted by her opponents? There’s also some overt jealousy around the league. Where have we seen that before? Oh yeah, every time a young male athlete joins a league, is hyped up and given a lot of media attention before he even does anything.

It’s human nature, not just the nature of women, which is something that has been said more than once by ignorant folks on social media.

Also, Clark, whose rookie salary is $76,500, signed a $28 million deal with Nike before she even stepped onto a WNBA court. The top players in the WNBA are making around $200,000 a year; you don’t think they resent this young rookie making so much in endorsements before she’s even proven herself at the professional level?

There’s also the matter of other WNBA rookies, like Angel Reese, who was Clark’s biggest rival in college. In fact, Reese and LSU defeated Clark and the Hawkeyes in the 2023 title game.

Reese, who was drafted by the Sky, was seen clapping during Carter’s hard foul on Clark. Reese has also said she doesn’t mind playing the “bad guy,” and that Clark isn’t the only reason women’s basketball has gained a higher profile in recent years.

But Clark is the top reason, and probably 99 percent of it.

And that’s why some have suggested that the WNBA screwed things up by not “rigging” the draft so that Clark would get picked by a team in a bigger market. For one thing, that’s absurd. For another thing, it doesn’t seem to matter, since Clark’s profile couldn’t be higher.

There is also the matter of Clark being left off of the 2024 women’s Olympic basketball team. Why was she left off? Simply based on numbers and performance, there were other players more deserving than Clark.

Clark being excluded from the team has caused an ongoing debate, with one side saying she doesn’t deserve to be on the roster based on performance and the other side saying her inclusion would draw more viewers and more attention to the sport of women’s basketball.

Ironically enough, the same people who are suddenly “outraged” that Clark has been left off the Olympic team spent years mocking women’s sports–including the WNBA–and said that any attempt to place them on the same level as men’s sports was affirmative action.

And that’s another point: Agendas. Everyone has them with Clark. There are people who want her to succeed simply for political reasons. There are others who want her to succeed because of her race and sexuality. Conversely, there are people who want to see her fail for all of those same reasons.

Does that make you uncomfortable? Too bad. It’s 2024. Maybe you are aware of this. Maybe you’re not. But back in 1987, the Pistons’ Dennis Rodman was asked about Larry Bird following Detriot’s loss to the Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Rodman was controversial even in those days and said that Bird would be seen as just another good player if he was black. Isiah Thomas, the Pistons’ top player and, like Bird, one of the best of his era, echoed his teammate’s sentiments. The bleep immediately hit the fan, and Thomas even had to join Bird for a press conference to clear the air before the Celtics took on the Lakers in the NBA Finals. 

If people could openly discuss such things as race in 1987, we can touch on them now.

These are constructive debates, and we are seeing in real-time what a player of Clark’s status and visibility can do for a struggling league.

You don’t think most of the players in the American Football League–including his own Jets teammates–resented “Broadway” Joe Namath and all of his money and hype back in the 1960s? They did, but their tune changed after Namath helped lead New York to an upset victory over the NFL’s Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

The same will happen with the WNBA and Clark if she establishes herself and takes the league to a new level.

As for now?

Like I said before, Caitlin Clark is a polarizing figure, and that’s good for women’s basketball. 

More from Other

read more


Sign up below for the latest news, stories and podcasts from our affiliates

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.