Caitlin Clark is the WNBA’s best player but her arrival will not trigger an ‘explosion’

Caitlin Clark’s first game as a pro’ went like her last games as a collegian. Disregard the age of the opponent, she’s the best player on the floor, in a packed arena.

On Friday night at the College Park Center in Arlington on the campus of UTA, the Dallas Wings’ WNBA team, thanks to some shrewd foresight, were the first team to host the Indiana Fever and the biggest thing to hit women’s sports in this country ever.

This was not your standard preseason game. This felt like the playoffs, even if the players dismissed it as a scrimmage.

Clark’s arrival to Arlington sold all 6,251 tickets for a game that normally is free. This was one of the Wings’ two preseason games, and tickets for these exhibitions are typically giveaways.

Even if it’s a warmup, you don’t give away tickets to watch Elvis in a recording session. On the secondary market, one ticket was going for $666 on the floor. The bad seats, which they’re not many in this quaint arena, were going for about $75.

In her first game as a pro, Caitlin did for the Indiana Fever what she did for the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Clark led the Fever with 21 points, including those deep 3-pointers that made her a national name. The only hitch to this script was she missed a short bunny in the final minute, and after the Wings took the lead in the waning seconds, Clark’s difficult game-tying 3-point shot from the deep corner was off.

The Wings won the game 79-76, but this was a win for everyone.

“You couldn’t ask for a better first game, really, for women’s basketball,” Clark said after the game. “Tremendous game, down to the wire, both teams competing; that’s going to be the story of the entire year.”


There was not a single negative to be found here on Friday night, with one glaring exception. The WNBA needs more, real players. And until not only that happens, we have to get over all of this “explosion” talk surrounding this league, and women’s sports.

Until we as a sports consuming culture focus on the performance rather than the “movement” of girls and women playing basketball, volleyball, softball, and anything else, we ain’t there. Until the focus is primarily on the production of the player and coach and GM, rather than equality and Title IX, this is all in the development stages.

That’s not an indictment on any woman playing these games but where American is in its evolution buying women’s sports.

Because the concept of buying women’s sports is still relatively new. Think 1990-ish as a launch date. The concept of a Caitlin Clark in 1985 was a fantasy.

Be patient, people.

The first year of the NBA was in 1946-’47, but the league didn’t find stability, and popularity, until the ‘80s when Magic Johnson and Larry Bird came along. Before Magic and Bird, pro basketball was 30 years of small crowds, folding teams, and a product that was second tier behind baseball and football.

The WNBA’s first season 1997, so you do the math.

We have a ways to go, but it’s better than it’s ever been, and Clark’s arrival will eventually be viewed as a marker. Because she’s a prodigy.

She’s not Bird. She’s Beethoven, and she can hear (sorry, that’s a music joke).

After Larry Bird’s first few practices as a rookie with the Boston Celtics, he said he knew he could dominate the NBA.

After watching Caitlin Clark cook and smoke defenders on Friday night, she might be the Rookie of the Year who wins the MVP award, too.

She is already its best shooter; the NBA should extend an invite to her to compete in what should now be a WNBA v. NBA 3-point shootout competition during the 2025 All-Star weekend.

She barely knows her new teammates and yet displayed the vision and passing skills that former Syracuse men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim compared to the late Pete Maravich. Her teammates blew at least three layups off her perfect passes.

She might be the best passer in the WNBA, NBA or NCAA right now. Her basketball IQ is as good as any player in the sport, men or women.

As evidenced by her second half on Friday night where she scored five points, this transition from college to the pros will have a bump or two, or three. She has been with this team for five days.

She’s talented enough to be a Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season.

With 2:19 remaining in the game on Friday night, the Fever led the Wings by two and it felt like it all mattered. This was a good atmosphere, and a good product. And it was a preseason game.

For anyone over the age of 35, to see this for a women’s game is not just progress but a real tearjerker.

“The excitement around women’s basketball, honored. Grateful. Proud,” said Wings coach Latricia Trammell, who has been in the sport for more than 30 years. “I have to give credit to these players, they are putting a great product on the floor. When I drove up to the arena, to see the line waiting 2 1/2 hours early I knew it was going to be special.”

They were in line for one reason.

Much more has to be done, and will, for the WNBA, and women’s sports to “make it,” but Caitlin Clark is not marketing gimmick.

It’s an organic creation that Americans want to buy, and she’s worth the price.