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HomeSportsCaitlin Clark's debut is the moment the WNBA has been waiting for

Caitlin Clark’s debut is the moment the WNBA has been waiting for

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — The spotlight that followed Caitlin Clark everywhere across college basketball now begins stalking her to Mohegan Sun Arena.
This is the first night of the rest of her magical basketball life, the Tuesday night when she begins her WNBA career with the Indiana Fever and even her mesmerized legion of fans and admirers and corporate and commercial partners alike were gripped with “What can she do for an encore?” fever.
It is in many ways the first night of the rest of the WNBA’s life, a life dragged out of the shadows of the sports consciousness by The Caitlin Clark Phenomenon.
4 Indiana Fever’s Caitlin Clark (22) puts up a 3-point shot. AP
It is the arrival of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird that gave the NBA the star power it desperately needed in 1979, and Caitlin Clark is expected to do the same for the WNBA.
She is the new The Chosen One. LeBron James was just as an 18-year-old high school kid out of Akron back on Oct. 29, 2003, when he scored 25 points with nine assists and six rebounds in a Cavaliers road loss to the Kings.
“I was able to make a lot of moves I made in high school,” James said following his debut. “I just had to bring a lot more power. They’re a lot stronger in the NBA. Most of the moves I used in high school I used out here.”
There will be growing pains for Clark playing against seasoned professionals, beginning against the Connecticut Sun, but watching her grow will be part of the fun.
There will be nights when her long-distance 3s will clang off the rim. But there will not be nights when she does not play with a joie de vivre and a will to win that can be intoxicating. There will not be nights when her court vision does not allow her to thread the needle with the prettiest precision passes you will see.
4 Caitlin Clark, left, poses for a photo with WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert, right, after being selected first overall by the Indiana Fever. AP
It can be a burden being asked to be the face of the league as a rookie, but she has handled the trappings of fame with a poise and a grace and a maturity that belies her 22 years every step of the way. As much as there are moments when she understandably longs to feel normal, she nevertheless has mostly managed to embrace the public eye microscope on her. She recognizes that fans — 8,910 expected on a sold-out Tuesday night — show up to see her. She understands the responsibility to the game.
ESPN pulled out all the theatrical stops for the beginning of the Caitlin Clark Era, overhead cameras and slow-motion cameras and “WNBA Countdown” live from the arena at 7 p.m. The game marked the first time that Disney+ streamed a live sports event.
4 Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark, left, signs autographs for fans after Indiana lost to the Dallas Wings during an WNBA basketball game AP
She has opened the door to charter flights for all teams, for more national television exposure, to playing in sold-out bigger arenas, and eventually to rising salaries. Her eight-year Nike deal is worth a reported $28 million. If anyone can start to slam the door on pay equality, it is her.
Good for her and good for all the women who will follow. Good for her that she elevated the sport the way she did at Iowa and changed the landscape and the possibilities for little girls — and boys — with a ball and a dream. Good for her that she has been such an inspiration.
Michael Jordan scored 16 points on 16 shots with seven assists, six rebounds, four blocks and two steals in his triumphant home Bulls debut on Oct. 26, 1984.
4 Fever guard Caitlin Clark (22) and Indiana Fever guard Lexie Hull (10) and Indiana Fever guard Erica Wheeler (17) react during the second half against the Dallas Wings. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con
“I wasn’t nervous,” Jordan said. “It was more like being over-intense. I wanted to do well, for the team and for myself, so maybe I forced things a little.”
Be Like Mike soon followed. Be Like Caitlin now.



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