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WNBA players hating on Caitlin Clark is exactly what the league needs — commentary

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Rivalries are great for sports. They might even be the best thing a sport or a league can have. Magic vs. Bird. Ali vs. Frazier. Brady vs. Manning. You know what’s better for the WNBA than Caitlin Clark having one rival? Caitlin Clark having 120 rivals. 

The WNBA is seeing unprecedented attention from Americans this year, thanks to the arrival of Caitlin Clark. Clark’s National Championship loss against South Carolina drew an average of nearly 19 million viewers, the most-watched women’s sporting event in history

Although the league isn’t quite seeing those numbers, Clark is still drawing over a million fans per game to their TV sets, something the WNBA hadn’t seen a single time in over a decade prior to the Indiana Fever drafting Clark. 

But it’s not because Clark is dominating on the court, like she did at Iowa. Clark is the highest scoring player in NCAA basketball history, men or women. She averaged over 28 points per game in her career in college, including a ridiculous 31.6 points in her final season. 

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Caitlin Clark exasperated on court

Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever reacts in the first quarter of a game against the New York Liberty at Barclays Center on June 02, 2024 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Luke Hales/Getty Images)

Her highest total in any of her first 10 WNBA games is 30 points, which means she hasn’t yet reached her college AVERAGE in a single game. Clark is averaging under 17 points in those 10 games. 

This isn’t a surprise; most rookies struggle in the early stages of their transition from college or high school into the professional ranks. The game is faster, and the opponents are stronger. That’s certainly taking a toll on Clark, but it’s a good bet that she’ll figure it out eventually. 

Until then, though, fans need more reasons to tune in. Clark’s dominance in college, particularly her ability to hit long-range three-point shots, was a big reason why fans tuned in and showed up to the arena. She helped Iowa reach the National Championship game, finishing 34-5. 

But the Indiana Fever stink. They’re 2-8 and have the second-worst win percentage in the WNBA. The league allows the top eight teams in the 12-team league to enter the postseason, and the Fever are currently three spots behind the final playoff spot. 

Caitlin Clark has struggled in her first 10 games in the WNBA, at least relative to her career at Iowa, but fans still have plenty of reasons to tune in.

Caitlin Clark dribbles

Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark (22) makes a move around the defense of Chicago Sky guard Lindsay Allen, left, during a WNBA basketball game Saturday, June 1, 2024, in Indianapolis.  (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)

It’s hard for fans to get too excited about Clark’s play or her team’s play. But what they can get excited about is the fact that players in the WNBA really seem to dislike Clark and that’s led to some entertaining on-and-off-court antics

WNBA players seem jealous of Clark’s popularity and part of the reason for that is her ability. It’s easy to see why a WNBA player, who is playing better on the court, is annoyed that Clark – who is admittedly struggling – continues to be the main draw. Clark is 16th in the league in points-per-game. 

Plus, Clark is a trash-talker. She was at Iowa and that has carried over into the WNBA. That has rubbed some players the wrong way. Take the incident that happened Saturday afternoon, for example. Prior to Chennedy Carter taking a cheap shot at Clark, Clark appeared to say something to Carter following an Indiana Fever basket. 

Does that warrant what happened? No, it doesn’t. Would the same thing have happened if another player said something to Carter instead of Clark? Probably not. Is there a little extra in that hit because it’s Caitlin Clark? Most likely. 

But everyone seems to think this is terrible for the WNBA. Why? The clip of Carter hip-checking Clark is being shared widely across social media. Every sports media outlet is covering it. Hell, I’m here writing about it TWO DAYS LATER. 

CAITLIN CLARK HAS ALREADY FACED IMMENSE CRITICISM AT EVERY TURN 6 MONTHS INTO 2024

Caitlin Clark with fans

Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever signs autographs for fans before the game against the New York Liberty during the 2024 Commissioner’s Cup game on June 2, 2024 in Brooklyn, New York. (Catalina Fragoso/NBAE via Getty Images)

If the Fever had simply beaten the Sky, as they did, and this did not happen, would there be this much conversation and coverage around the game? Not even close. We know that because Clark has played 10 games in the WNBA. The games that have gotten the most coverage are the ones that had some controversy. Controversy sells. Rivalries sell. WNBA players hating on Clark sells. 

Plus, everyone needs to stop pretending that this stuff is all brand new to the WNBA. I don’t know if this is how rookies usually get treated in the WNBA. You know why? Because I don’t think I’ve ever watched a WNBA game in my life prior to this year. 

Based on the television ratings, most sports fans haven’t either. In fact, Angel Reese got grabbed by the throat and thrown to the ground during a recent game. She said after the game that’s what happens when you’re a rookie. The veterans let you know that it’s their court. 

I still fail to see how any of this is bad for the WNBA. Yet, that’s the prevailing opinion on social media. 

Maybe I’m naive, but if all these players just constantly praised Clark and never gave her a hard time on the court, it wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining or draw the interest and attention that the haters are drawing. Again, rivalries are great for sports. 

Just look at the views of all the posts on Clark. Type “Clark” into the search bar on X (formerly Twitter) and everyone is talking about the “hit.” How many points did Clark have? What was the final score of the game? Those are harder to find (the answer is 11, by the way, and the Fever won 71-70). 

Caitlin Clark on the bench

Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever looks on during the game against the New York Liberty during a 2024 Commissioner’s Cup game on June 2, 2024 in Brooklyn, New York. (Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images)

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Some might argue that’s a bad thing. If fans are more interested in the extracurricular stuff than the actual game, it’s bad for the league. But is it? No one cared about the games or the scores for the past 28 years. Now, they care about Caitlin Clark.

All publicity is good publicity and the WNBA is getting a lot of publicity.

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