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Caitlin Clark has reached top heights of sports

It was an incredible and incredibly ballsy shot — a dramatic 40-footer from the logo — that cemented Iowa star Caitlin Clark’s place in history two weeks ago.
Sealed with a swish, the sharpshooter, often compared to Steph Curry, broke the all-time women’s scoring record formerly held by Kelsey Plum. And she is now on the precipice of setting the all-time scoring record, for both men and women, held by the late Pistol Pete Maravich.
Pretty great huh?
4 Caitlin Clark has become a mainstream sports superstar in part because of critics such as ESPN analyst Jay Williams. Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Broadcaster Jay Williams didn’t think so. He said Clark wasn’t “great” yet because she hadn’t won a championship.
Then he doubled down, moving the goalposts to the “g” word’s superlative.
“We were talking about greatest. I hear people talking about GOATs, right? For me, I’m kinda like, ‘OK, you wanna be a GOAT.’ Fine. There’s levels of greatness. You gotta win championships to be GOATs,” Williams said.
Great? Sorry, Mr. Williams. Clark is just too busy being transcendent.
The fact that the 22-year-old is even fodder for these arguments proves that she’s already climbed higher than Williams’s arbitrary perch, ring or no ring.
Never have I seen a female player cross over into petty mainstream debates that have been, until now, reserved exclusively for dude ballers.
But show me a bigger name right now in college hoops — male or female. You can blame the one-and-done for the dilution of must-watch talent on the men’s side, but you cannot deny Clark’s singular power.
4 ESPN analyst Jay Williams Getty Images
Or that her wizardry is transforming the women’s game in a multitude of ways.
Her squad is packing arenas — most recently, selling out the women’s Big Ten tournament for the first time in history. She’s breaking records on and off the court and notching NIL deals with companies that normally sign top male athletes.
Not to mention the extraordinary amount of eyeballs she’s pulling in. During a Jan. 21 regular-season matchup against Ohio State, an audience of 1.93 million viewers tuned in. Compare that to the NHL’s marquee Stadium Series last week, when the Sunday afternoon game drew 1.57 million.
Last year’s NCAA championship game between Iowa and LSU — pitting Clark against fellow phenom Angel Reese — drew a whopping 9.9 million viewers on ABC. Meanwhile, the most recent World Series between the Rangers and Diamondbacks averaged 9.11 million viewers.
This week, Clark became Fanatics’ top-selling college athlete in the NIL era. According to on3.com, her NIL value is $919,000 thanks to deals with Buick, Nike, Bose and Gatorade. Clark also became the first college athlete to sign with State Farm, which counts Patrick Mahomes and Chris Paul as pitchmen.
4 Caitlin Clark became the first college player to sign a deal with State Farm. Caitlin Clark / Instagram
In other words, Clark is treated like a superstar athlete first. Not a female athlete — simply, an athlete.
Clark’s social media accounts are mostly filled with on-court moments, revealing very little about her personal life — let alone her body. In that way, she is an antidote to what has been called the NCAA’s “hot girl problem.”
A 2023 Free Press profile of Haley and Hanna Cavinder noted how NIL’s biggest female earners in college sports weren’t always statistically the best players, but were alluring for other reasons. Both the Cavinders and LSU gymnast Livvy Dunne have unapologetically packaged their sex appeal alongside their athletic talent.
Flaunt your culo, pose for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit — I take no umbrage with the choice. But Clark is the realization of the feminist ask: Reward talent without objectification.
Modesty aside, she’s unabashedly cocksure. Unafraid to talk smack with her John Cena gesture — flashing her hand in front of her face in a “You can’t see me” taunt — and able to back it up with her prolific scoring and incomprehensible range.
4 Caitlin Clark does her John Cena “you can’t see me” impersonation after hitting a shot during a recent game. @justwsports / X
Of course she has detractors, including the legendary baller Sheryl Swoopes, who apologized to Clark after disparaging her with wildly erroneous statements that inflated her age, eligibility and shot attempts.
But Clark seems to take criticism in stride. She doesn’t launch indignant rebuttals on social media or whine in postgame interviews.
Her talking — yes, sometimes of the trash variety — is done on the court.
Maybe she doesn’t have that ring yet, but it’s an unfair metric.
She could have followed the trophy-lined path to schools such as UConn or South Carolina. Instead she went to Iowa, which has many conference trophies but has won exactly zero national titles (though they came pretty close last year).
Clark paved her own way, writing a tale that’s far more complex and intriguing.
And, amazingly, her story is in its beginning chapters. Lucky us.

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