By any available metric, the first month of the 2024 WNBA season has been a tremendous success. TV ratings are through the roof, with nearly three times as many people watching WNBA games across all networks this year compared to last year. Arenas are being filled to 94 percent capacity, a 17 percent rise from the 2023 season. Merchandise sales are up an incredible 236 percent from last year. And certainly by now you know, Indiana Fever rookie guard Caitlin Clark is a big reason why.

At the time of this writing, Caitlin Clark is averaging 16 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists per game for an Indiana Fever team that is 3-10, the second-worst mark in the WNBA. Clark is 15th in the league in scoring, 4th in assists, 17th in steals, 2nd in three-pointers made and 4th in minutes played, which would be impressive for any player in the league, let alone a rookie on a bad team who is being hunted each and every night like she's public enemy number one. And for no good reason, she is.

On Wednesday night, ahead of Game 3 of the NBA Finals, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver joined ESPN's pre-game show and fielded a question from host Malika Andrews about Clark's impact on women's basketball and her place within the WNBA.

“I think Caitlin, though, she's ultimately got to be prove it on the floor,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in response to Malika Andrews' question. “You can't anoint stars in this league. There's other names that weren't on your list that were gonna be the next fill-in-the-blank, and they turned out not to be just because of their performance. I believe she's going to deliver. She seems to have the character and the drive and the will and the talent, but let her evolve as a player. I want to take the pressure off her, not put more pressure on her.”

Well, that ship has sailed, Commissioner Silver. Proof of this: on a pre-game show ahead of the NBA Finals, the WNBA was discussed for the first time that I can remember in all my years as a basketball fan. And in this exchange between Adam Silver and Malika Andrews, there was just one player mentioned… Caitlin Clark.

ndiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark (22) checks back into the game in the first quarter against the New York Liberty at Barclays Center.
© Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Caitlin Clark Discourse

Ever since Caitlin Clark began her ascent while still playing for and setting records at the University of Iowa, both the WNBA and women's basketball in general have carved out a much larger slice of attention than ever. And while the WNBA has no shortage of stars — A'ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart, Sabrina Ionescu, Kelsey Plum, DeWanna Bonner, Napheesa Collier and Arike Ogunbowale just to name a few — who have long deserved more attention than they've been given, Clark is undoubtedly the catalyst of this spike in widespread interest.

Though I can't exactly pinpoint the reason why, though I do have my suspicions, Caitlin Clark is a lightning rod in a way that very few athletes in my lifetime have been. I'd argue that aside from LeBron James and Tim Tebow, I can't remember another athlete over the last twenty years being the subject of so much attention and scrutiny, and much like LeBron and Tebow, the way the sports world handles talking about Caitlin Clark is broken. It's like everyone has loses their damn mind whenever Caitlin Clark comes up. It turns into a race issue, or an entitlement issue, or it boils down to the maddening sports debate trope, “Is she overrated or underrated?”

Nobody has allowed Caitlin Clark to just play basketball. She's become a celebrity, even though I'm sure if you asked her, she'd prefer to just go out there and hoop without having to deal with all of the extra media-manufactured B.S. that's out there. And yes, I'm aware of the fact that because I'm writing this very article, I too am at least a minor part of the problem. But here's my challenge to myself and the rest of you: let's just watch Caitlin Clark play basketball and enjoy the fact that another incredibly talented player has arrived in the WNBA. Let's celebrate her, and everyone else in the league for that matter, rather than falling into the habit of cutting them down and losing perspective on what really matters… all of these women are really damn good at what they do.