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Clark Effect: Ratings and attendance boost could be on way for WNBA

Steph Chambers / Getty Images Sport / Getty

NEW YORK (AP) — The basketball world can’t get enough of Caitlin Clark and now that the college season is over, next up is the WNBA Draft. While there is no drama about whether the Iowa guard will be the top pick, there is excitement about her arrival.

With record ratings for the NCAA championship game and nearly every other game she played this season, Clark is joining the WNBA at the right time. The league has its TV deal expiring at the end of next year and that could lead to a massive new contract for the WNBA.

The WNBA just had its most-watched season in 21 years, averaging 462,000 viewers per game across ABC, ESPN and CBS. The league also had its most-watched Finals in 20 years that featured Las Vegas and New York. It was up 36% from the previous season. The league’s attendance rose 16% — it’s highest figure since 2018. Throw Clark into the mix and that number could grow exponentially.

“When you’re given an opportunity, women’s sports just kind of thrives,” Clark said. “I think that’s been the coolest thing for me on this journey. We started our season playing in front of 55,000 people in Kinnick Stadium, and now we’re ending it playing in front of probably 15 million people or more on TV. It just continues to get better and better and better. That’s never going to stop.”

Clark has inspired countless young boys and girls to want to watch and attend college basketball games. The WNBA hopes that carries on to her career in Indiana, where she is the expected No. 1 pick in the draft Monday night. There's no reason to think it won't as fans traveled across the country to see her play in college as nearly every road game Iowa played was sold out the past two seasons. Two WNBA teams have already moved their games against Indiana to bigger arenas.

“I know her shoulders are heavy because of what she has to give to women’s basketball. I just want to say we’re thankful. We’re thankful that she chose to play basketball," South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. "We’re thankful for the way she’s handled all of it. Her next step is the WNBA — I do think she can be that person that elevates us.”

She certainly will be an attendance boost for the Fever, who were second-to-last in home attendance averaging just over 4,000 fans. The Fever play in Gainbridge Fieldhouse, which could hold 20,000 spectators. The team has not released how many tickets they've sold since they won the draft lottery to get the No. 1 pick.

If Monday night's draft is any indication of excitement, the league sold out of its approximately 1,000 tickets within 15 minutes. The cheapest available ticket on one secondary market topped $165 this week.



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