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Published Time: 15.05.2024 - 02:01:12 Modified Time: 15.05.2024 - 02:01:12

The WNBA has been experiencing unprecedented popularity in recent months ahead of Clark's much-anticipated debut for the Indiana Fever, after she was selected first overall in the most recent draft. WNBA, Caitlin Clark


The WNBA has been experiencing unprecedented popularity in recent months ahead of Clark's much-anticipated debut for the Indiana Fever, after she was selected first overall in the most recent draft.

Clark is arguably the most hyped player to enter the competition, having shattered records during a stellar college career with Iowa.

Clark's arrival has prompted the league to move games to larger stadiums due to added fanfare.

The Fever flew a chartered plane to their away match, thanks to a rule change the WNBA made in the off-season reportedly worth $50 million.

She has made a huge impact before even logging a single minute.

Add to that the debate around gender disparity and sexism inadvertently catalysed by Clark's talent, and it is no overstatement to say the 22-year-old from Iowa has crossed the threshold from athlete to cultural phenomenon.

And that she remains, even if her start was not the fairytale her mini-legion of fans came for.

The Fever were away to the Connecticut Sun on the opening day of the WNBA season, but that wasn't obvious from the hundreds of fans there to see Clark.

Finding themselves on the wrong side of an era-defining bandwagon, Connecticut did what any savvy 21st-century major-level sports team would — they leaned into the banter.

They put up the Fever Bandwagon Cam on the big screen, with the caption, "Loyal Fever fan since 2024", showing images of fans in Clark T-shirts.

"Come on," said Sun hype man Conor Geary. "That one still has the tag on it."

In her instantly iconic 22 jersey, Clark did not get her first points until midway through the second quarter, as the Sun jumped out to a double-digit lead early thanks to some three-pointers from guard Tyasha Harris.

The Fever star was not helped by some early foul trouble that knocked her out of her rhythm in the first quarter.

Clark's first points came off the back of her making a quick steal in the Fever's back half, before racing to the other end of the field for a simple lay-up.

Sun guard DiJonai Carrington did well to limit Clark's influence, landing 14 points of her own in the first half — the last after she picked Clark's pocket at the centreline.

An injury to Carrington led to Clark briefly rallying, as the Fever won the third quarter and Clark scored eight points in a row in the last as she settled into the game.

However, the Sun had all the answers, winning 92-71.

Clark finished with 20 points, three assists and 10 turnovers, the latter the most by any WNBA player for four years.

Her 10 turnovers were also the most by a debutant in league history.

For a player who had it mostly all her own way at Iowa, the more physical WNBA will require a major adjustment from the star guard.

Clark earned some sympathy from former WNBA coach Carolyn Peck on ESPN's coverage of the game.

"Indiana, don't judge them by this first game," she said.

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