Home Sports Caitlin Clark is ‘sole reason’ for women’s basketball viewership growth, Dawn Staley says

Caitlin Clark is ‘sole reason’ for women’s basketball viewership growth, Dawn Staley says

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South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley credited Caitlin Clark as the “sole reason” that women’s basketball viewership has exploded in recent years. Staley made her comments Wednesday during an appearance on 670 The Score in Chicago

Over the past month, many former players and media members have shared their thoughts on where Clark stands in the pantheon of college basketball greats. Many viewed some of the comments, particularly those from Diana Taurasi, as hating. Staley pushed back a bit on that narrative then segued into her thoughts on Clark’s impact. 

Here are her full comments (emphasis mine):

“I don’t think other people are hating on Caitlin Clark, I think it was more respect for history of the game. It comes from that perspective, because when you think of some of the greats — when you throw around the greatest college basketball player ever, I think of Breanna Stewart, who won four championships. I do, like I’m never gonna forget that because she banged it on our head all four years. 

“When I think about Caitlin Clark, I do think she’s one of the greatest. Like she’s the greatest of her time. She’s the greatest of her time. I want women’s basketbal to grow, and I’m not too shy about saying why it grows. She’s made it grow over the past two years. I’m actually gonna go back to her freshman year when she was killing then when nobody wanted to talk about Caitlin Clark because Paige Bueckers was all of that, deservedly so. Caitlin Clark won my Dawn Staley Award her freshman year when everything was about Paige Bueckers. That’s nothing to take away from Paige Bueckers, but it’s everything to say we need to make sure we’re telling the stories of our entire game. Sometimes you have to go against the masses to really cut down and say what’s happening in real time. Caitlin Clark is the sole reason why viewership has shot through the roof for our game — sole reason. 

“The decision makers are following suit in making sure that other games are being played besides Caitlin Clark. Because if you play Caitlin Clark, you’re gonna run up against somebody that you might find is pretty good. We were pretty good. Over 18 million people saw our national championship game. They tuned in to see Caitlin Clark, but what did they get? They got Caitlin Clark, and they got South Carolina. They got Kamilla Cardoso, they got Ashlyn Watkins, they got MiLaysia Fulwiley, they got Tessa Johnson. They got a number of players that they can now cheer for.”

Staley’s comments are spot on. Clark is the all-time leading scorer in Division I history, men or women, and took Iowa to back-to-back national championship games. While she didn’t win a title, she is one of the best players college basketball has ever seen, and she enters the WNBA as arguably the best perimeter prospect ever. 

Along the way, her electric, one-of-a-kind style of play created millions of new fans and drove viewership to heights the sport has never seen. The national championship game between Staley’s Gamecocks and Clark’s Hawkeyes drew 18.9 million viewers, setting a new record for the most-watched women’s basketball game of all time. Those kind of numbers simply don’t happen without Clark.

And, as Staley noted, a rising tide lifts all boats. Everyone who tuned in to watch Clark also saw Kamilla Cardoso dominate in the paint, Raven Johnson play incredible defense and Tessa Johnson knock down big shots. Cardoso is now off to the WNBA, where she was the No. 3 pick to the Chicago Sky, and both Johnsons will be back in Columbia next season — along with MiLaysia Fulwiley — to try and lead South Carolina to another championship. 

Thanks to Clark, women’s basketball as a whole is finally getting the widespread attention it has deserved all along. 

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