The ‘New Look’ Caitlin Clark Is EXACTLY What The WNBA Feared

 

Every once in a while, a player comes along who not only challenges the status quo but completely disrupts it.

For the WNBA, Caitlin Clark is that player. A generational talent.

From day one, Caitlin has been a polarizing figure. Love her or hate her, she commands attention.

It’s common for fans to voice their opinions, but when you see both former and current WNBA stars joining the chorus, you know something extraordinary is happening.
To some, she’s a disruptor, to others, a revelation. In a league where every new player is measured against legends, Caitlin is setting new standards. She’s the underdog, the David, challenging the Goliath, that is the established WNBA.

Hailing from West Des Moines, Iowa, Clark took the college basketball world by storm in 2020 with the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Caitlin Clark’s NCAA scoring record inspires next generation

Sports milestones tend to be marked as moments in time, progressive steps forward celebrating the beauty, power and evolution that allows for generational talents to emerge and records to be broken.

Caitlin Clark is the latest generational talent. But her ascendance as the No. 1 scorer in NCAA women’s basketball history comes at a time we’ve been waiting on, decades in the making. We have had our various eras before — from Billie Jean King to Cheryl Miller, Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain, Jennie Finch and Candace Parker, Serena Williams and Simone Biles.

These women, through their own moments in time, slowly convinced the general public to see them as outstanding performers, got fans to tune in and watch and show up and root and cheer. They got little girls like Caitlin Clark to dream big. To expect more.

“She’s spearheading a movement right now,” North Carolina field hockey coach Erin Matson said. “I speak for a lot of us when I say we’re behind her, and want to see her succeed because it helps all of us. It helps her. It helps females in sport.”

Matson would know. A generational talent herself, Matson dominated her sport the way Clark is dominating basketball. Matson won three national player of the year awards and four national championships before taking over as UNC head coach this past season. In her first game as coach, a record overflow crowd showed up. For her.

It’s the way overflow crowds are showing up for Clark. Because people know when history is unfolding in front of them.

The general public now expects more.

Matson is right that this goes beyond basketball. In August, 92,003 fans showed up to watch Nebraska and Omaha in the Cornhuskers’ football stadium, shattering the all-time Division I women’s college volleyball attendance record. And it should be lost on no one that Clark broke the record Thursday in Iowa City, where the Hawkeyes hosted DePaul in October in Kinnick Stadium for an exhibition game that turned out 55,646 fans to break the record for attendance in D-I women’s college basketball.

The NCAA volleyball championship game between Texas and Nebraska set a TV viewership record; women’s basketball ratings are routinely being smashed; and so are ratings for softball and women’s gymnastics. While there are talented women in all of those sports, none have carried the star power or the cache that Clark has over the past year.

She harnessed this transcendent time for women in sport, finding herself squarely at the epicenter. The beauty of watching her play is not just her ability to post up and make a shot from anywhere. It is her gift for making the extraordinary look routine, that any moment she could do something truly remarkable then shrug it off like it’s no big deal.

Caitlin Clark’s journey to taking the scoring crown

Check out Iowa star Caitlin Clark’s journey to becoming the all-time leading scorer in women’s college basketball.

Clark can do all these things because of the work she has put in, her focus and care to master the fundamentals and to squarely keep the focus on basketball. She is a walking testament to hard work, perseverance, dedication and a commitment to team above all else. That makes her easy to root for outside Iowa, and outside basketball.

Yet what makes her so compelling goes beyond the way she plays. Her moment in time lines up with social media’s moment in time, and that has allowed an entire nation to follow and believe we are all a part of history, too. Kelsey Plum set the scoring record only seven years ago, yet the fanfare approaching her record does not compare to what we are seeing with Clark.

There is plenty to come, of course. Clark is within striking distance of the all-time NCAA scoring record, held by Pete Maravich. She could come back to Iowa for another year, or move on to the WNBA. No matter what she decides, her moment in time is cemented. But it will also prepare sports fans and another generational talent to come for their own moment in time.

“Our job is to set the next generation up,” Matson said. “Everyone always asks me, ‘Your records are set. Don’t you ever want them to be there forever?’ It’s like, ‘No. That means we didn’t do our part.’ We want in five years, in 10 years, another Caitlin Clark, another Erin Matson, whoever it is to come along and break those records. Because that means we did our job in setting them up for success.”

Matson met Clark last year in Los Angeles at the awards ceremony for the Honda Cup, which Clark won as collegiate woman athlete of the year. They connected, and like many athletes at the top of their sport, share a lot of the same traits — a fiery edge, a mindset to dominate. But they also had down-to-earth conversations about the way the spotlight has shined on Clark. “You can tell she thrives off it, which I think is a separator,” Matson said. “Good athletes like the pressure, but the greats rise to it and really thrive in it.”

Before they left Los Angeles, Matson told Clark, “Go get what’s yours.”

Clark has done that. A standard has been raised. Another generational talent is sure to follow.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgCju_vKx2I&ab_channel=MrSports

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