Opinion: ‘The Caitlin Clark Effect,’ Basketball’s Next Icon

Caitlin Clark, guard for the Iowa Hawkeyes on defense against the Minnesota Gophers during the final 25 of the March Madness tournament. Clark went on to lead her team to compete in the final NCAA championship game on Sunday (Photo by John McClellan via Wikimedia Commons).

On April 1, Caitlin Clark led her team to victory, securing the Iowa Hawkeyes’ second consecutive Final Four qualifying win. This win comes after a great display from Clark, culminating in the defeat of their “rival” and current defending champions LSU, which broke the record for most-watched women’s tournament game with 12.3 million viewers

Iowa defeated UConn on Friday to advance to their second consecutive national championship appearance against No. 1 ranked South Carolina. Unfortunately for Clark, Iowa lost to the undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks with a final score of  87-75.

Clark, a current senior at the University of Iowa, has become one of the most impactful players on the basketball scene. She currently holds the record for the NCAA’s Division I women’s basketball single-season points at 1,113, alongside the record for career points in both men’s and women’s basketball and single-season made 3-pointers in both men’s and women’s basketball. 

With such a vast resume of accomplishments and skill, Clark has declared for the WNBA draft and is anticipated to be the first pick selected by the Indiana Fever in this year’s upcoming draft. This has sparked what is known as the “Caitlin Clark Effect”, characterized by a surge in ticket prices for both Iowa away games and Indiana Fever games. Clark is making a name for herself in a male-dominated sport, nothing new to her.

As a youth player, there were no “girls only” leagues, so her father put her in the boys’ leagues. Not only did Clark hold her own, she was picked as the MVP of her youth league. Her dominance in the basketball sphere continued throughout the years. Her junior season capped off with a big head-to-head matchup with star-studded LSU in the National Championship game. Thanks to Clark’s great season and the performances of other talented women like Angel Reese, Flau’jae Johnson, Paige Bueckers and Hailey Van Lith, the viewership of women’s collegiate basketball has skyrocketed.

This matchup changed how women’s sports are seen to a previously unheard-of extent. The competitiveness of the two stars from Iowa and LSU made for one of the most-watched women’s college basketball games of all time, with an average of 9.9 million viewers. While Iowa did lose to the stacked LSU lineup, the “friendly” feud between Reese and Clark put women’s basketball on a different part of the map. 

Clark’s deep threes and cultural impact are akin to Stephen Curry’s, which has never been reached by a women’s basketball player before. I believe that the new emergence of women empowerment in sports is similar to that of the USA women’s soccer team fighting for equal pay. With fresh eyes on the sport, viewers can now see women’s sports as equally important as men’s.

Clark has become a new face of what women’s sports can become. She is one of those talented stars who appeal to the regular sports and non-sports communities. There have been stars in different sports that have revitalized interest in the sport: Magic Johnson and Larry Bird for the NBA, Tom Brady for the NFL and Wayne Gretzky for the NHL. 

I feel that Clark, along with the next few classes of collegiate women’s basketball players, are showing the importance of the WNBA alongside how impactful women’s sports are to the women who participate.

In the current season, Clark continues to excel at the collegiate level. Her effective deep shots and great passing bring eyes to her and the sport. With the latest loss to South Carolina, Clark will go down as one of the best collegiate athletes to never win a national championship.

Paired with Clark’s commitment to treating fans well, she’s become an icon to most women basketball players. 

With Clark declaring for the WNBA draft, she has a bright future ahead of her. The Indiana Fever had the first pick last season, so I expect Clark to make up for the championships she didn’t win in Iowa. 

From childhood to now, Caitlin Clark has taken the reins of a male-dominated climate and made it her own. The game is hers now, and I can’t wait to see what she does.

About Seiji McSwain 8 Articles
Seiji McSwain is a first-year student from Las Vegas, Nevada and is a Sport Communication major at Albion College. He writes about any sports topics relating to the NFL, NBA, NCAA, Albion College sports and news about sports journalism. He enjoys watching sports, listening to music and video editing. Contact Seiji via email at sdm13@albion.edu

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