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Opinion Meet the Queen Kong of Hoops, Iowa’s Caitlin Clark

Iowa's Caitlin Clark during the game against Colorado in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament on March 24 in Seattle. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
5 min

Turn off “Ted Lasso.” Forget “Succession.” I’ve got your next hit show.

It’s a thriller starring a skinny kid who looks like the drive-through girl at your Wendy’s. And yet when she gets on the basketball court, she becomes Wonder Woman. Her shooting range starts in the hotel lobby. She passes like a ponytailed Pistol Pete Maravich and she has the sticky fingers of a subway pickpocket.

Her name is Caitlin Clark. She was just named the Naismith Player of the Year, for the top women’s b-baller in the country. And if you watch her this Friday night against the undefeated South Carolina on ESPN in the NCAA women’s Final Four, bring your inhaler, because she’ll take your breath away.

This 21-year-old, 6-foot junior plays for Iowa and she’s the most entertaining Hawkeye since Alan Alda. She bangs jumpers from the midcourt logo and zips passes that would make David Blaine scratch his head. Half the people she passes to don’t even realize they’re open.

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In Iowa’s Sunday win over Louisville in the Elite Eight, she became the first player in NCAA tournament history — man or woman — to record a 40-point triple double. Magic? Michael? Wilt? Never did it.

Of Iowa’s 97 points that night, she either scored or assisted on 70. That’s bananas.

Put it this way: If you’re watching the men’s Final Four this weekend, you’re watching the wrong tournament.

We live in a YouTube highlight world and Caitlin Clark is the Queen Kong of them. The other day I waited through two 30-second ads to see what she’d done the night before. It’s worth it. She’s becoming a one-name water-cooler topic — Did you watch Caitlin last night? She made one sitting on the bench!

Caitlin Crazies are everywhere. “No shot is a bad shot,” NBA superstar Steph Curry told ESPN a couple of weeks ago, “when you can shoot it as well as she can.” NBA god Kevin Durant has been sold on Clark since catching her in a 17-and-under championship game.

Patrick Mahomes — yeah, that guy, the NFL’s 2023 MVP — has his hair routinely blown back by the Des Moines native.

After the Elite Eight game, when Clark was goosebump great, LeBron James tweeted, “She’s SO COLD!!!!!!! SHEESH.”

You got the “she” part right, LeBron. She’s as showstopping as any man in the game. She works the crowd, yells at the refs, occasionally gets in the faces of her teammates and makes zero apologies for being a large bowl of awesomesauce. During one game this season, she swished a jumper from just inside the half-court line. As the crowd flipped out, she held out her arms and gave them the Michael Jordan shrug, as if to say, Hey, there’s no off position on this.

Here’s how cocky she is. The day before the Elite Eight game in Seattle — with an e-vite to Dallas for the Final Four hanging in the balance — she reportedly asked her mom to go out and buy her some new clothes for the Texas trip, since she wouldn’t have time. No doubt her mom gave her a look like, “But … but … don’t you have to win the game first?” Mom. Go. I got this. She went.

Caitlin Clark is so good that if she were a guy, she’d be in those awful Capital One ads. As it is, she already has NIL (name, image, likeness) deals with Nike, Buick, Goldman Sachs, Hy-Vee, Topps and Bose. Plus, H&R Block — well why not? She already needs a good accountant.

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Right now — before the huge Final Four exposure even kicks in — an NIL industry index rates Clark’s annual valuation at $192,000. She might actually lose money by turning pro.

Seriously: The base salary for a top one-through-four WNBA pick is about $72,000, or approximately what LeBron makes per dribble. Now, at Iowa, Clark sells out their 15,000-plus arena on many nights, or almost triple an average WNBA crowd. The TV viewership for last Sunday’s ClarkShow was a massive 2.49 million, unheard-of for women’s basketball. So if you’re Goldman Sachs, where do you want to see her playing when you’re paying?

No wonder she’s thinking of staying at Iowa for two more seasons — her senior year and the extra covid year the NCAA is handing out. It’s a no brainer, really. Play in front of earsplitting crowds in Iowa City, only a two-hour drive from her parents’ house in West Des Moines, or take four-hour flights to play the Indiana Fever in front of 1,700 people, and that’s only if there was a good Groupon that night.

I hope she plays at Iowa for the full five years. Because at the rate she’s going, she’ll own the all-time NCAA points record (men or women), the all-time NCAA assists record (men or women) — and most of Iowa City.

Me? I’m already Zillowing condos there.