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The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

Hot Shot: Fighting stereotypes in womens basketball

University+of+Iowa+senior+Caitlin+Clark+is+a+key+player+in+the+push+to+promote+womens+college+and+professional+basketball.+
John Mac via Wikimedia Commons
University of Iowa senior Caitlin Clark is a key player in the push to promote womens college and professional basketball.

Caitlin Clark, a senior female basketball player for the University of Iowa, has broken the record for most points all-time in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Basketball history.

To put this into perspective, Clark has now scored more points than legends Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during their college careers. 

This achievement is legendary — after breaking a 54-year record, Clark received a ton of media attention for it. Here’s what we’ll call the Caitlin Clark effect: After her record-breaking game, womens regular season college basketball began to average more viewers than their male counterparts. Iowa sold out all of its home games for the 2023-24 season, and womens college basketball viewership went up by 60% across all networks.

Clark has now scored more points than legends Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during their college careers.

With all the attention being given to womens basketball, it begs the question: Have you ever watched the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA)? Or any kind of professional womens basketball? 

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For most people, the answer would be no. It’s a fact that the sport, even with increasing viewership, still doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Last year, the WNBA finals recorded 1.59 million viewers, but the National Basketball Association (NBA) finals recorded over seven times as much. It’s a sad reality that people don’t watch womens basketball — unless Caitlin Clark is involved.

Compared to the middling attention given to the WNBA, Clark is well known and praised by many. Thanks to her popularity, Iowa also receives national recognition during its games. Clark’s record-breaking game against Ohio State University brought in 3.39 million viewers, the highest of any womens regular-season college game in 25 years, and more than double that of the WNBA finals.

On the surface, the problem seems to be the skill difference between the NBA and WNBA. The main draw of basketball is watching players’ athleticism. In mens basketball, excitement is found in watching electrifying dunks, which isn’t as common in womens basketball. But while female players can’t necessarily jump as high as male players do, they can be just as skilled.

During the 2024 All-Star Weekend, we watched WNBA All-Star Sabrina Ionescu face off two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry in the 3-Point Competition. Despite being arguably the greatest 3-point shooter of all time, Curry outscored Ionescu by a mere 3 points, proving they’re more similar in skill level than many think.

Before the competition, people across the Internet doubted Ionescu’s ability. Most saw the contest as a shameless plug to promote the WNBA and assumed that the competition would be scripted for Ionescu to win.

We live in a world with so many preconceived assumptions that won’t ever let society treat womens basketball with the same respect we do for a league such as the NBA. 

To be honest, Ionescu was put in a lose-lose position by fans. If she lost, the NBA and WNBA could face backlash for hosting an event that favored Curry to win in the first place. If she won, others would claim the contest was rigged in Ionescu’s favor and doubt her ability as a basketball player.

While the WNBA could do a better job at debunking the stereotype that women cannot play basketball as well as men, we live in a world with so many preconceived assumptions that won’t ever let society treat womens basketball with the same respect we do for a league such as the NBA. 

We shouldn’t have to wait for a record-breaking moment like Clark’s to start treating women’s basketball fairly. With the number of skilled and talented female players in all leagues, the current landscape of womens basketball deserves more.

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Tyler Elman, Staff Writer

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