Sports Columns

Caitlin Clark effect in full swing for Indiana Fever


If you follow sports at all, you’ve probably seen a whole lot about Caitlin Clark over the last few weeks. This was supposed to be an exciting time for her career, as well as Indiana Fever fans, and fans of women’s basketball in general. Instead, it has turned into some nasty online debates, and it has brought out the worst in a lot of people.

I can’t imagine the pressure that is on Clark’s shoulders to begin with. She was the number one pick in the draft. She just set the all-time scoring record for any player in college basketball history. And she went straight from the Final Fur to playing pro games in a very short amount of time. She’s not the only reason for the rise of popularity in the WNBA, but let’s not kid ourselves, she is the MAIN reason.

The way things are going, they’re going to make movies about this in the future. I’m glad the interest is growing in the W, but I hope the story-lines return to basketball and competition instead of the narratives that are currently flying around. This has the opportunity to be a beautiful time of growing the game with a ton of new fans. Players, coaches, and members of the media alike need to be very aware of the message they’re sending to those new fans.

On Saturday, I had the chance to cover Clark and the Fever in person in Indianapolis. The home team defeated the Chicago Sky 71-70 in front of a sellout crowd. It was their second win of the season, and it was also “the” game that sparked a lot of the discussion. Caitlin Clark took another cheap shot from an opposing player, and handled it like a pro. The free-throw she was given (which should have been two), was the difference in the game.

“I didn’t expect that,” said Clark after Saturday’s game. “But I just have to respond by letting my play do the talking. Go make the free throw and then execute on offense. It is what it is I guess. I’m just going into games knowing I’m going to take some hits. Don’t retaliate and just keep playing.”

Saturday’s game was a sellout at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. There were several moments in the game that were every bit as loud as a big Pacers game in that building. The Indiana Fever have now played five games in Indy this season, and have already surpassed last year’s total attendance for home games (20 total games). The “Caitlin Clark” effect is real. This is a team that has only won two games, and yet they are the team selling out arenas. They are the talk of the town. They are the team everyone wants to go see.

After the game, I took some photos outside the stadium. There were hundreds of fans staying after the game, hoping to see Caitlin Clark as she left the arena. The following day, there was a viral video of Clark taking a picture court-side in New York with a ton of young fans. There’s a lot on this 22 year old’s plate, but she’s embracing it.

“This is what I’ve dreamed about,” said Clark. “There’s a lot that has come with it, but I’m still enjoying every minute.”

The WNBA schedule makers have not been kind to the Fever. They’ve played the most games in the league by far, with very little time for rest or practice. Just add that to the list of things Clark is learning to overcome.

Note to Indiana or even Midwest residents: Make a trip to Gainbridge Fieldhouse at least once this summer. It’s an exciting time, and an exciting place to be.

Caitlin Clark just won the WNBA Rookie of the Month, and she’s just getting started. I’m sure she will continue improving as the season goes along, and I think you’ll see her dominate the league as early as next season. In the meantime, let’s get back to basketball. Let’s get back to enjoying greatness, and the love of the game.

Tyler Smith covers the Indiana Pacers and Indiana Hoosiers for IndySportsLegends and is a frequent contributor to the Journal Review. He is also the youth and sports pastor at New Hope Christian Church.