Caitlin Clark’s arrival in the WNBA headlines the most anticipated season in the league’s history

Caitlin Clark’s arrival in the WNBA headlines the most anticipated season in the league’s history

After becoming the first overall pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft, Caitlin Clark leads her new squad, the Indiana Fever, into a fresh season. However, it has been a shaky start over the first two games, as the Fever opened the season with two consecutive losses.

Indiana fell in their season opener on the road Tuesday against a Connecticut Sun team that finished 27-13 in the 2023 regular season, and made the WNBA Semifinals. Two days later, they lost 102-66 in their home opener against the New York Liberty, who lost in the finals last season. 

Clark’s debut game saw her finish with 20 points but also had 10 turnovers as she struggled adjusting to the speed of the WNBA. Clark addressed the media following the loss against Connecticut. “Collectively, obviously 25 turnovers is going to make it really hard for us to win,” Clark said, assessing her team’s performance. “They took 66 shots [and] we took 50 … it’s really hard to win games when you give [Connecticut] 16 more opportunities than we had.” 

Despite the Fever falling to 0-2, Clark understands there’s still lots of basketball left to be played in the season: “There’s gonna be good ones, there’s gonna be bad ones … you gotta learn from it and move on and be ready to go.” 

Caitlin Clark courtesy of Flickr

Clark did not address the media following the game against New York. She finished that contest with nine points, six assists and seven rebounds. 

Despite struggling out of the gate, the 22-year-old rookie phenom from Iowa carries with her an inestimable level of aura and attention to the women’s game. The 2024 NCAA Women’s Basketball Final between the Iowa Hawkeyes and South Carolina Gamecocks drew an estimated 18.7 million viewers according to Nielsen overnight figures, the most watched basketball game since 2019 (pro and college, men’s and women’s). Clark later appeared on Saturday Night Live, further boosting her platform and popularity. 

The so-called “Caitlin Clark Effect” is real. The 2024 WNBA season is by far the most anticipated season in its history, dating back to its founding in 1996. Clark’s arrival to the WNBA could be similar to what other sporting legends have done to their sports. Tiger Woods made golf more entertaining to watch, while playing with lots of fire and big fist pumps. He brought lots of athleticism and strength to his game, and inspired a generation of golfers to follow in his footsteps. Michael Jordan’s multiple three-peats with the Chicago Bulls dynasty and his signature shoe line brought the NBA to new heights, paving the way for future hoopers to come. Caitlin Clark has the opportunity to elevate the product that is the WNBA, just as she did for women’s college basketball.

On the court, it’s Clark’s playstyle that captivates her fanbase. Her ability to create her own shot, especially behind the arc, is what draws so much attention to her games. Clark averaged 31.6 points per game while shooting 37.8 percent from downtown in her final season with the Hawkeyes. She is a crafty ball handler that can dance on a defender and knock down step-back three-pointers with consistency, a la Stephen Curry. Clark is also an elite facilitator, as she averaged 8.9 assists in her final Iowa campaign. She is a great outlet passer, constantly igniting points in transition for her teammates, while playing with great anticipation and control in a half-court offense. 

The Indiana Fever have a young core to build around, including 2023 first overall pick, Aliyah Boston out of South Carolina, and 2022 second overall pick, Nalyssa Smith from Baylor. With the arrival of Caitlin Clark, Indiana hopes to contend for championships in the years to come.

FanDuel has Caitlin Clark as the favorite to win WNBA Rookie of the Year, at -700. The Fever will continue their season Wednesday May 22, 2024 in Seattle. 

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