Caitlin Clark carries women’s hoops on her back

MVP Arena in Albany, New York during the March Madness tournament, as well as Caitlin Clark pregame introduction.

On March 30, 2024, basketball fans crowded the streets outside of MVP Arena in Albany, New York, eagerly waiting to watch the Iowa Hawkeyes take on the Colorado Buffaloes in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Women’s March Madness tournament.

Soon enough, the sold out, 15,000-seat stadium was filled top to bottom with people in black and gold basketball jerseys and kids with the number “22” painted on their faces.

The number 22 is the one Iowa star Caitlin Clark has worn for the entirety of her collegiate basketball career. Known for her impressive shooting range and offensive dominance, Clark has consistently delivered outstanding performances that have left both fans and opponents in awe of her skills.

This season alone, she broke the record for the most 30-point games by any men’s or women’s Division I player, achieved the most three-pointers in a single season by any men’s or women’s Division I player, and became the all-time leading scorer in NCAA history with nearly 4,000 points.

She’s one of the best that the sport has ever seen, which has quickly led her to become a face for women’s basketball. By showcasing her talent and exciting style of play, Clark has played a significant role in increasing the visibility and popularity of the women’s game.

Now more than ever before, people all over the world are tuning in to watch. The Iowa versus Colorado game in Albany drew 6.9 million TV viewers, making it the best Sweet 16 audience ever recorded in women’s college basketball. A few weeks later, the March Madness championship game featuring Iowa and South Carolina was watched by a record-breaking 19 million viewers.

This year, Caitlin Clark has carried herself, and the game, with elegance, class, and pride. It goes without saying that the impact she has had on the sport extends far beyond the number of points she’s scored and records she’s broken.

When the buzzer went off in MVP Arena after Iowa’s 89-68 victory against Colorado, a game where Clark led her team with a staggering 29 points and 15 assists, a multitude of excited young girls who were watching from the stands raced to the side of the stadium where Iowa would exit the court into their locker room.

After celebrating the win with her teammates, Caitlin Clark approached the wide-eyed crowd with a wave and a friendly smile. Popping the cap off of a permanent marker, she signed every t-shirt, basketball shoe, and headband that came her way. She posed for pictures with kids who were proudly wearing her number “22” on their shirts, and she advised them to work hard and follow their dreams.

It’s truly a special thing to witness the positive influence that Caitlin Clark has on the younger generation of aspiring women’s basketball players. To them, she is more than a role model – she’s a symbol of possibility. While this season has been one that will go down in history, it marks only the beginning of what is to come for the future of women’s basketball.

After a hard-fought championship game wrapping up the 2024 NCAA Women’s March Madness tournament, the Iowa Hawkeyes lost to the South Carolina Gamecocks by 12 points.

Clark, days later, was the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft. After graduating college, she will begin her professional basketball career with the Indiana Fever.

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