Advertisement

Can Caitlin Clark continue her success in the WNBA?

 Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever dribbles the ball during the second quarter against the Seattle Storm in the game at Climate Pledge Arena on May 22, 2024 in Seattle, Washington.

Caitlin Clark became the face of women's basketball as a college superstar. Her WNBA journey is proving more challenging.

Yes, the rookie scored 30 points for her Indiana Fever on Tuesday night — but the effort came in yet another loss, this time to the Los Angeles Sparks. "It has been that kind of season so far for the former Iowa star and her new teammates," said ESPN. The Fever have lost seven of their first eight games — more defeats than her entire final year at Iowa — and Clark has occasionally appeared lost on the court. "We did some good things," Clark said of the latest loss, "and then we just kind of shot ourselves in the foot."

Some naysayers wonder if Clark was given a "premature coronation," Xavier Handy-Hamilton said at CBS Sports. But she still has lots of fans — including LeBron James, a four-time champ in the NBA. His advice to Clark? Get into a Kentucky Derby mindset. "Put your blinders on, go to work, show up to work, punch your clock in, prepare yourself, work on your game, work on your craft," he said in a recent podcast. But will fans give Clark time to adjust?

What did the commentators say?

"It's hard to have fun when you're losing," Lindsay Schnell said at USA Today. And it's clear that the early struggles are "taking a toll" on Clark. It's a good time to remember she gets paid to play a game for a living — and remember, too, that the game is fun. The success will almost certainly follow. "All those kids in Clark shirts are waiting for it," Schnell said. "And when it happens, they'll be the most joyful of all."

"The Caitlin Clark panic should stop," Marcus Thompson II said at The Athletic. Early struggles are a natural part of any rookie player's development. The question is whether the fans she brought to the WNBA from college "will allow" her time to adjust to the pro game. We know that Clark, a basketball obsessive, will put in the practice and film study to get through the bad games and become something better. "This is a real hooper on a journey to basketball excellence."

What next?

There is good news. The arrival of Clark — and her rival, Angel Reese — has boosted the WNBA's popularity. Viewership of league games on ESPN has "surpassed last year's average by 226 percent," Vox said. "Notably, one of the biggest ratings increases the WNBA has seen is from girls between the ages of 12 to 17." Now the WNBA must figure out how to sustain the new boom and broaden interest. Caitlin Clark is a "household name," Marketplace said, "but she can't be the only one."

Clark's peers still expect great things. "I know coming to the WNBA, there's an adjustment just from the level of play and playing against the best every single night," reigning MVP Breanna Stewart told The Indianapolis Star. Clark, meanwhile, isn't paying attention to the discussion of her team's struggles, Fox News said. "To be honest, I'm not really on social media. I don't read that," she said. Her job? "Continue to show up and help this team get better."