Caitlin Clark’s exclusion from the USA Women's Basketball Olympic Team for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France, has stirred considerable controversy. First Take host Shannon Sharpe has strongly criticized the decision to leave out the rookie from the Indiana Fever.

Caitlin Clark undeniably has a unique impact, unlike any player in the history of women's basketball. She shattered viewership records at the University of Iowa, and this trend has persisted in the WNBA, despite her team's slow start with the Fever currently at 3-9 for the season.

As the sport's most popular player, Clark's presence could have potentially boosted television ratings in Paris and reignited interest in the WNBA.

Not including Caitlin Clark is a missed opportunity

Hoops fans and analysts like Shannon Sharpe have expressed similar sentiments that leaving out the Indiana Fever rookie is a missed opportunity for the Women's Basketball team to grow the game.

Sharpe was extremely critical of the decision and passionately expressed his thoughts during the latest edition of ‘First Take.' . The former NFL star initially acknowledged that Clark isn't on par with WNBA elites like A'Ja Wilson in terms of skill level, but he emphasized that what she brings is representation.

The ESPN analyst made the case that given Caitlin's immense popularity in women's basketball, she should have been included in the team to draw the highest possible viewership to the sport.

“Will she [Caitlin Clark] ever be as accomplished as a Stewie or as an A’Ja Wilson? I believe those two obviously they’re slam dunks, they’re the two best players in the WNBA hands down, and it’s not even close… but are we really trying to grow the game because this is the most popular women's basketball player in the world, and it ain’t close.” Sharpe in his tirade of the USA Women's Basketball Olympic Team.

Snubbing Caitlin Clark does not grow the game

Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark (22) on the court in the first half against the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Sharpe further emphasized Caitlin Clark's unparalleled popularity by providing an example, stating that her fame isn't just a passing trend but a once-in-a-generation phenomenon that the WNBA has never experienced.

“They had to move the Mystic game to an NBA arena… Tell me when was a WNBA game has had to be moved because of a woman player, just once, just tell me one because I know in her attendance, she’s averaging about 17,000, all the other WNBA games in which she’s not a participant averages about seven,” Sharpe exclaimed.

Sharpe then questioned rhetorically whether the decision-makers truly wanted to expand the game. In his view, if they were genuinely interested in growth, they would have included Caitlin in the Paris roster. However, given that they haven't, Shannon believes that all the talk about the US Basketball's efforts to grow the game is merely empty rhetoric.

“So are we really trying to grow the game? Is that what we’re really trying to do? Or are we just talking about how we’re trying to grow the game and just bullj*b?” he said.

Fellow analyst Stephen A. Smith fully supported Shannon's viewpoint and launched an even more aggressive tirade against the US Women's Basketball Team.

“You know good and damn well with or without Caitlin Clark they gonna probably win the gold again, that’s not what this conversation is about. This is about what I will personally label [as] the idiocy of Team USA Women’s Basketball… How dare you make this decision? It’s stupid!” said the always passionate Stephen A.

Despite the decision being final, Clark should not lose hope. Her career trajectory so far indicates that she has the potential to become a multiple-time Olympic gold medalist.