The WNBA: Thread II

InstaFace

The Ultimate One
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
23,184
Pittsburgh, PA
NBA seasons and NHL seasons are essentially equivalent in length. Same number of regular season games. Basically the same playoff structure. Time frames almost identical.

NHL rookie salary: $950k max
NBA rookie salary: $10.1m for the #1 pick

The top NBA rookie salary is 10.6 times that of the max rookie salary in the NHL. Crazy, right? For the "same" work, NHL players make far, far less than NBA players.

Biggest NHL contract ever: Alex Ovechkin - 13 years, $124 million ($9.5 m per year)
Biggest NBA contract ever: Jaylen Brown - 5 years, $304 million ($60.8 m per year)

And yet...

NHL revenue: $6 billion
NBA revenue: $10.6 billion

So the NBA brings in 1.8x the revenue that the NHL does, but players make FAR more than NHL players do. It's just economics. It's not sexism or racism. It's just economics.
So I'm a little unsure of the point you were trying to make, but I read this as a "yes-and" of my point about economics, underscoring it with a comparison to the NHL.

What I'd add to that is that there's a few main factors that drive the difference. But let's first talk about what's the same. The NBA, as is well known, guarantees players 51% of revenue ("basketball-related income"), which has a few carve-outs but is generally pretty comprehensive. The NHL, meanwhile, has the players' share of revenue set at 50%, with some escrowing similar to the NBA but basically no carve-outs. So given those revenue numbers, you'd expect players' shares to be pretty comparable.

But the first big difference is roster size. NHL rosters have minimum 20, max 23 (most carry 23), while NBA teams have minimum 12, max 15 (most carry 14-15), plus smaller things like two-way deals that are probably a wash in a comparison. So even on a per-player basis, just from that factor you'd expect NBA players to get 1.5x that of NHL players.

The second factor is deals struck to handle COVID financial fluctuations. NHL players basically got paid by league owners via deficit financing during the suspended seasons, and because of that debt and the terms agreed with the NHLPA, the salary cap hasn't gone up to match revenue. So we're at a cap of $83.5M / team, for a total possible league payroll of $2.67B which would be only 44.5% of projected revenue. Or about 10% less total player pay than you'd expect given the 50-50 revenue split. In the NBA, they initially dropped player pay by 25% for the balance of the 2019-2020 season, and then agreed on a max 20% player pay cut for the next season, kept the salary cap flat, basically constraining any rise in player payroll and handling shortfalls in league revenue (which were substantial) via increased escrowing. And now you have a total payroll this year of $4.85B, against a projected 2023-24 league revenue of $13B, (2021-22: $10B, 2022-23: $10.9B), which would only be 37.3% of revenue. So while league revenue has since recovered post-pandemic, it would appear that the players are still in arrears to the league based on the league not cutting player pay by as much as they could have, and instead smoothing the cap impact out, and then being made whole over the course of several years.

A third factor is the difference that a single player can make to the team, and thus the league's stratification of salaries from stars to scrubs. The NBA is famously stratified, hence Jaylen Brown's 35%-of-cap max getting to $60M, and the bottom-end players making $1.1-$1.9M (taking up 7% of the roster spots but ~1% of the average team payroll). VS nobody in the NHL really making much more than 10% of the cap, but a minimum salary of $750k, which proportionally is more generous than the NBA (minimum players each taking up ~4% of the roster spots but 0.9% of the average team payroll, so proportionally about double that of minimum players in the NBA). The NBA's stars basically take all the gains, whereas roster-building is much more of a complex puzzle in the NHL and you need to spread talent around a lot more. But the NBA's stars also take more of the minutes - you can only have 5 players on the floor, and come the playoffs, you're only playing 7-8 of them, and your stars can play 80-90% of the minutes, while in the NHL a star forward is still only playing 1/3 of the minutes and a star defenseman ~2/5ths of the minutes. Impact is very different between them, so you'd expect the salaries to be more stratified. This doesn't affect average player comp, but since you raised the maximum league salaries as a point of comparison, I thought it's worth addressing.

So averaging between those factors, if you assume a full 23-man roster and $83.5M salary cap for an NHL team, the average player is making $3.63M, while in the NBA, with a 15-man roster and ~$165M average team payroll, the average player makes $11M (hence that being the MLE amount), a ratio of ~3x more for the average NBA player, driven chiefly by the ~2x league revenue multiple favoring the NBA, and 1.5x bigger roster size in the NHL. I might have my numbers off, or there might be some pandemic-related escrowing that this isn't fully taken into account (e.g. player compensation isn't just the announced salaries, and we don't know the arrears / cap-smoothing situation of both leagues).

Bottom line: Players' total and average comp is about what you'd expect in both leagues, given their announced revenue sharing split with the players.

Bringing this back to the WNBA, it's unsurprising that women's basketball players average more than women's soccer players, because there's just so many more players per roster on a soccer team. There are also many fewer pro basketball player jobs available. 12 teams x roster size of 12 (vs 22-26 for soccer teams), even if that goes to 14 or 16 teams soon, it's still harder to get in the door as a player.

And the key economics factor that I'm tracking will be the revenue split, in both cases. As Kelsey Plum said above, WNBA players are getting about 21% of revenue, which is really low, and what you'd expect from a new league trying to constrain costs to reach financial stability and handle some expected big bumps and roadblocks along the way. I estimate NWSL payrolls at being about 18% of revenue, but their nearest competitor, the WSL in the UK, is probably paying 60-70% of (much lower) revenues to players this season. The WSL can afford to be that generous because their parent clubs are all Premier League financial behemoths and the women's team is a rounding error to them, but that's only sustainable so long as the league is showing revenue growth as a result of that investment. But long-term, you'd expect those numbers to both creep towards the 50% that mature, profitable sports leagues get to (50% for straight player payroll, 60-65% in total staff costs, which is how the soccer numbers are reported)
 

BaseballJones

ivanvamp
SoSH Member
Oct 1, 2015
25,421
So I'm a little unsure of the point you were trying to make, but I read this as a "yes-and" of my point about economics, underscoring it with a comparison to the NHL.
Another good post, so thank you. And yes, you read my intent correctly. I'm just trying to hold the view that it's not sexism or racism - it's just economics.
 

InstaFace

The Ultimate One
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
23,184
Pittsburgh, PA
@InstaFace - your posts here and deep dives in NWSL revenues made me think about another difference between the leagues: NWSL clubs aren't owned by any MLS counterparts, they have owners/ownership groups that are trying to develop their own market. In the WNBA, the Sky are the only team not affiliated with an NBA counterpart. I'm not sure how much of a difference this can make given US league/franchise structures, but strikes me a significant difference.

View: https://twitter.com/ChicagoSports/status/1780619805399093707
Yeah you know, I think it probably matters some, but less today than in years ago. There's a few factors pulling in opposite directions:

(1) When you're just getting established as a new league / entertainment product, you want deep-pocketed owners who can sustain some deficit spending for a few years, or handle it if revenues come in below projections. In MLS's case, this was famously a make-or-break thing for the league in 2002, when Phil Anschutz basically bailed out the entire operation and recommitted to making it work, buying out other owners who had cold feet, and kept with it until the 2007 arrival of David Beckham set the league on its trajectory towards current respectability. The German women's football teams that are independent (e.g. Essen, Turbine Potsdam, etc), as opposed to having big parent clubs like Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg, are really struggling right now.

(2) But they don't have to be parent-club type ownership, like same-sport-different-gender, either. As we're seeing in the NWSL today, the new independent ownership that's coming in is usually very deep-pocketed. The Louisville NWSL team that just built their own stadium, is owned by a local billionaire couple who happened to meet at Princeton (she played for the school), then started an investment management company together. Bay FC is backed by a billionaire PE guy who put up a $50M expansion fee like it was nothing and planned to spend $125M total on facilities and building the business. You just want to get away from the low-budget clownshoes type owners who typified NWSL ownership in their early years, before ~2019 when the league's fortunes really started changing. NWSL had a few of those - Orlando and Houston and Seattle (originally) being owned by their MLS neighbors - but of course the WNBA has always been 50% owned by the NBA itself, and as you point out, nearly all teams are likewise owned by NBA teams.

(3) parent-club ownership situations are great for setting a floor on team financial stability, but they are eventually bad at maximizing the ceiling. As we're seeing in women's football with the divergence between NWSL's very entrepreneurial management and (consequently?) meteoric growth, vs the much more static progress of e.g. the German, French or Australian women's leagues, parent-club ownership eventually devolves into a sort of benign neglect. In Germany, which has one of the oldest and most respected women's soccer leagues, it was the DFB (the national sports association, like USA Basketball) who managed the marketing of the TV rights for the women's league, and they did miserably at it. Teams and leagues who have separate staff, out there building relationships with different sponsors and corporate partners, who are interested in the relationship for different reasons, do better financially - there's a lot of data points on this now. I don't know the extent to which the WNBA's flagging attendance and general decade-long malaise is due to this benign neglect, as opposed to a relative lack of catchy storyline or good management, but there's at least a correlation if not full causation.

(4) on the other hand, if done right, with full commitment and attention, a parent-club (or at least parent-league) kind of situation can provide some real synergies. For example, I think the WNBA would not have gotten on television nearly as soon as it did without the NBA bundling the TV rights, they basically dragged ESPN and TNT along on it. NBA teams may not be as motivated to sell WNBA packages to their own corporate sponsors and other sources of commercial revenue, but they probably enabled some early sponsor deals that the teams would not have been able to get on their own. So even as I say "they need to split TV rights up for the next deal", I do bear in mind that it was a very useful backstop to have, for a long time. Indeed, given the number of women's leagues that failed before the WNBA, you can argue that it was essential to the league's survival. I just think they've outgrown it now - certainly the NWSL has, and based on those lessons I expect the WNBA is reaching that point now too.
 

reggiecleveland

sublime
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Mar 5, 2004
28,226
Saskatoon Canada
The Wnba is a summer a league, and maybe the most successful summer league. To draw over 5000 in a summer league is great. To make six figures in a summer league is very good too.

The real question for the Wnba is they ever want to move to the winter and compete directly with the other pro women's leagues.

I would like the Wnba to be a fiba league and send the champ to the fiba club world championships.
 

mauf

Anderson Cooper × Mr. Rogers
Moderator
SoSH Member
Jun 22, 2008
36,513
So I'm a little unsure of the point you were trying to make, but I read this as a "yes-and" of my point about economics, underscoring it with a comparison to the NHL.

What I'd add to that is that there's a few main factors that drive the difference. But let's first talk about what's the same. The NBA, as is well known, guarantees players 51% of revenue ("basketball-related income"), which has a few carve-outs but is generally pretty comprehensive. The NHL, meanwhile, has the players' share of revenue set at 50%, with some escrowing similar to the NBA but basically no carve-outs. So given those revenue numbers, you'd expect players' shares to be pretty comparable.

But the first big difference is roster size. NHL rosters have minimum 20, max 23 (most carry 23), while NBA teams have minimum 12, max 15 (most carry 14-15), plus smaller things like two-way deals that are probably a wash in a comparison. So even on a per-player basis, just from that factor you'd expect NBA players to get 1.5x that of NHL players.

The second factor is deals struck to handle COVID financial fluctuations. NHL players basically got paid by league owners via deficit financing during the suspended seasons, and because of that debt and the terms agreed with the NHLPA, the salary cap hasn't gone up to match revenue. So we're at a cap of $83.5M / team, for a total possible league payroll of $2.67B which would be only 44.5% of projected revenue. Or about 10% less total player pay than you'd expect given the 50-50 revenue split. In the NBA, they initially dropped player pay by 25% for the balance of the 2019-2020 season, and then agreed on a max 20% player pay cut for the next season, kept the salary cap flat, basically constraining any rise in player payroll and handling shortfalls in league revenue (which were substantial) via increased escrowing. And now you have a total payroll this year of $4.85B, against a projected 2023-24 league revenue of $13B, (2021-22: $10B, 2022-23: $10.9B), which would only be 37.3% of revenue. So while league revenue has since recovered post-pandemic, it would appear that the players are still in arrears to the league based on the league not cutting player pay by as much as they could have, and instead smoothing the cap impact out, and then being made whole over the course of several years.

A third factor is the difference that a single player can make to the team, and thus the league's stratification of salaries from stars to scrubs. The NBA is famously stratified, hence Jaylen Brown's 35%-of-cap max getting to $60M, and the bottom-end players making $1.1-$1.9M (taking up 7% of the roster spots but ~1% of the average team payroll). VS nobody in the NHL really making much more than 10% of the cap, but a minimum salary of $750k, which proportionally is more generous than the NBA (minimum players each taking up ~4% of the roster spots but 0.9% of the average team payroll, so proportionally about double that of minimum players in the NBA). The NBA's stars basically take all the gains, whereas roster-building is much more of a complex puzzle in the NHL and you need to spread talent around a lot more. But the NBA's stars also take more of the minutes - you can only have 5 players on the floor, and come the playoffs, you're only playing 7-8 of them, and your stars can play 80-90% of the minutes, while in the NHL a star forward is still only playing 1/3 of the minutes and a star defenseman ~2/5ths of the minutes. Impact is very different between them, so you'd expect the salaries to be more stratified. This doesn't affect average player comp, but since you raised the maximum league salaries as a point of comparison, I thought it's worth addressing.

So averaging between those factors, if you assume a full 23-man roster and $83.5M salary cap for an NHL team, the average player is making $3.63M, while in the NBA, with a 15-man roster and ~$165M average team payroll, the average player makes $11M (hence that being the MLE amount), a ratio of ~3x more for the average NBA player, driven chiefly by the ~2x league revenue multiple favoring the NBA, and 1.5x bigger roster size in the NHL. I might have my numbers off, or there might be some pandemic-related escrowing that this isn't fully taken into account (e.g. player compensation isn't just the announced salaries, and we don't know the arrears / cap-smoothing situation of both leagues).

Bottom line: Players' total and average comp is about what you'd expect in both leagues, given their announced revenue sharing split with the players.

Bringing this back to the WNBA, it's unsurprising that women's basketball players average more than women's soccer players, because there's just so many more players per roster on a soccer team. There are also many fewer pro basketball player jobs available. 12 teams x roster size of 12 (vs 22-26 for soccer teams), even if that goes to 14 or 16 teams soon, it's still harder to get in the door as a player.

And the key economics factor that I'm tracking will be the revenue split, in both cases. As Kelsey Plum said above, WNBA players are getting about 21% of revenue, which is really low, and what you'd expect from a new league trying to constrain costs to reach financial stability and handle some expected big bumps and roadblocks along the way. I estimate NWSL payrolls at being about 18% of revenue, but their nearest competitor, the WSL in the UK, is probably paying 60-70% of (much lower) revenues to players this season. The WSL can afford to be that generous because their parent clubs are all Premier League financial behemoths and the women's team is a rounding error to them, but that's only sustainable so long as the league is showing revenue growth as a result of that investment. But long-term, you'd expect those numbers to both creep towards the 50% that mature, profitable sports leagues get to (50% for straight player payroll, 60-65% in total staff costs, which is how the soccer numbers are reported)
As you’re no doubt aware, it’s a lot easier to manipulate the bottom line (profit) than the top line (revenue), which is one reason players’ unions have negotiated revenue splits rather than profit splits. But the fairness of a given revenue split really turns on what percentage of profits the players are getting. Which is why we all think the NFLPA sucks — they get the same 50% or so of revenues that NBA and NHL players get, but that almost certainly represents a smaller share of NFL profits than what NBA and NHL players get. (And that’s not even getting into the risks inherent in football, which I’d argue justifies a split more favorable to players.)

Whether the WNBA’s split is fair right now probably turns on whether the league is still a loss leader or if clubs are actually making money. Either way, the players’ share of the pie should increase as the pie grows.
 

The Social Chair

Member
SoSH Member
Feb 17, 2010
6,342
A'ja Wilson subtly (or not so subtly) complaining about Clark's Nike contract. But how many non-Shaq centers have ever had a successful shoe?

The dynamic of the WNBA players being salty about Clark is odd. It would be like George Gervin being upset about Magic and Bird getting attention as rookies when the league finals were on tape delay.

Clark has a chance to make some 10 year old girl $6M per year in a decade.
 

BaseballJones

ivanvamp
SoSH Member
Oct 1, 2015
25,421
A'ja Wilson subtly (or not so subtly) complaining about Clark's Nike contract. But how many non-Shaq centers have ever had a successful shoe?

The dynamic of the WNBA players being salty about Clark is odd. It would be like George Gervin being upset about Magic and Bird getting attention as rookies when the league finals were on tape delay.

Clark has a chance to make some 10 year old girl $6M per year in a decade.
Clark's presence is going to boost A'ja's salary as well. It's like other golfers being upset at Tiger's endorsements and popularity - "hey, we've been winning majors long before this kid came on the scene". Yeah, but when this kid came on the scene, he positively impacted everyone's wallet and visibility. A rising tide lifts all boats, etc.

It's just jealousy is all. Kind of understandably so, since there have been many great women's players over the years who haven't gotten anything close to the attention Clark has received. But also, yeah, recognize that she is really, really good for the game, and her presence and popularity is going to put money in your pocket too, WNBA vets.
 

Cellar-Door

Member
SoSH Member
Aug 1, 2006
35,718
Clark's presence is going to boost A'ja's salary as well. It's like other golfers being upset at Tiger's endorsements and popularity - "hey, we've been winning majors long before this kid came on the scene". Yeah, but when this kid came on the scene, he positively impacted everyone's wallet and visibility. A rising tide lifts all boats, etc.

It's just jealousy is all. Kind of understandably so, since there have been many great women's players over the years who haven't gotten anything close to the attention Clark has received. But also, yeah, recognize that she is really, really good for the game, and her presence and popularity is going to put money in your pocket too, WNBA vets.
I don't think the shoe deal stuff is just jealousy. There has already been some unhappiness about the fact that the only WNBA players with signature shoe deals are White. A'Ja is the best player in the WNBA, she doesn't have a signature shoe deal, in the last few years Clark is the 4th player to get a signature shoe... every one of them is White and 2 of them play the same position as A'Ja (Stewart/Delle Donne).
 

Auger34

used to be tbb
SoSH Member
Apr 23, 2010
11,292
Yeah, Wilson has a legitimate gripe with regards to the shoes. I am kind of shocked that Nike hasn't given her one yet especially after LeBron tweeted about it last year.
Also, the Sabrina Ionescu shoe is really popular so I would think they'd want to lean into it a little more
 

BaseballJones

ivanvamp
SoSH Member
Oct 1, 2015
25,421
I don't think the shoe deal stuff is just jealousy. There has already been some unhappiness about the fact that the only WNBA players with signature shoe deals are White. A'Ja is the best player in the WNBA, she doesn't have a signature shoe deal, in the last few years Clark is the 4th player to get a signature shoe... every one of them is White and 2 of them play the same position as A'Ja (Stewart/Delle Donne).
I didn't know that about all those with shoe deals being white.

I'd argue that Stewart is better than Wilson, but YMMV.

But Clark SHOULD get a shoe deal. She's the most popular player in the history of women's basketball.
 

Cellar-Door

Member
SoSH Member
Aug 1, 2006
35,718
I didn't know that about all those with shoe deals being white.

I'd argue that Stewart is better than Wilson, but YMMV.

But Clark SHOULD get a shoe deal. She's the most popular player in the history of women's basketball.
Sure but you can see why the 2 time MVP, who also just won back to back Championships, back to back DPOY, one of the biggest stars in the league would be a little annoyed that she can't get a deal but a rookie is getting one without playing a game.
She has a real gripe, either you care about investing in the game or you don't. It's not a shot at Clark, it;s a shot at the shoe companies.
 

ThePrideofShiner

Crests prematurely
SoSH Member
Jul 16, 2005
10,955
Washington
Was I the only one amused that during her SNL appearance, Clark shouted out a list of players who helped pave the way for her to the WNBA - and she didn't mention a single UConn player?
 

BaseballJones

ivanvamp
SoSH Member
Oct 1, 2015
25,421
Sure but you can see why the 2 time MVP, who also just won back to back Championships, back to back DPOY, one of the biggest stars in the league would be a little annoyed that she can't get a deal but a rookie is getting one without playing a game.
She has a real gripe, either you care about investing in the game or you don't. It's not a shot at Clark, it;s a shot at the shoe companies.
Yep, I can see that.

I wonder how popular Wilson is around the country though.

Also...Wilson did get a shoe deal last year.

https://www.si.com/fannation/sneakers/news/aja-wilsons-new-nike-shoes-drop-ahead-of-wnba-season
 

DennyDoyle'sBoil

Found no thrill on Blueberry Hill
SoSH Member
Sep 9, 2008
43,945
AZ
I don't think that WNBA players go to sleep and wake up thinking about their responsibility to grow the game. I think they all want it, sure, but my guess is there are a number of them who are mostly focused on getting theirs, and while they understand that a rising tide floats all boats, at the end of the day, that's kind of abstract. Just like any workplace.

I also imagine that there are players in the WNBA who are highly competitive and who are thinking they can kick her ass and so think it's not a big deal. And of course there are probably a large number of players who are thinking, but cannot say, that if Caitlin Clark had the exact same career but was named Sh'niqua Jones and looked a lot different that she would not be getting a $10 million shoe contract, because a lot of us would be unconsciously thinking "oh, that's what she should be doing."

People are complicated and I think we lean toward holding 20 something athletes to a level of pettiness avoidance where most of probably don't exactly walk the walk in our own lives all the time.
 

InstaFace

The Ultimate One
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
23,184
Pittsburgh, PA
Was I the only one amused that during her SNL appearance, Clark shouted out a list of players who helped pave the way for her to the WNBA - and she didn't mention a single UConn player?
Heh, I didn't see it, but I kinda like it. I'm OK with UConn having become something of "the Duke of the women's game" in terms of antipathy, and "they hate us cause they ain't us" defensiveness on the other side. I got to enjoy a lot of that during the Patriots glory years, all of us here are used to it.

When he coached the USA Basketball team, Geno would sometimes do scrimmages of "ex UConn players vs everyone else", just to get 'em playing harder. He leans into it sometimes.

Clark being a little bitter that Geno didn't recruit her (like, at all) because he had already committed to a PG in Bueckers is fun. It's harmless sports fun. Paul Pierce was a little pissed that a boy from Inglewood didn't end up with the Lakers, and it helped make that chip on his shoulder a little bigger, too. If in a year or two, there are some Clark vs Bueckers WNBA matchups to watch, I bet more eyes will be on it because the rivalry thing isn't entirely invented. My eyes will certainly be more likely to be on it.
 

Cellar-Door

Member
SoSH Member
Aug 1, 2006
35,718
Yep, I can see that.

I wonder how popular Wilson is around the country though.

Also...Wilson did get a shoe deal last year.

https://www.si.com/fannation/sneakers/news/aja-wilsons-new-nike-shoes-drop-ahead-of-wnba-season
That's a custom colorway, Clark is getting a signature shoe, two VERY different things. As an example.. Tatum has a signature shoe, the Tatum 1 (and 2), it's his shoe with his name, his input etc. WIlson has a colorway of the Cosmic Unity, which is much different from a branding and $ perspective. Lots of players have shoe deals, many have custom colorways, but they don't own anything, it's just a unique visual on an existing shoe. A signature shoe deal is a much higher level, beyond the input... it has your name, you have a bigger financial stake, they can't release new ones after your deal ends without paying you etc.
 

67YAZ

Member
SoSH Member
Dec 1, 2000
9,202
Shaq used his position as Reebok's "President of Basketball" to sign Angel Reese to a multi-year deal last October. They are planning a full collection launch for this Fall/Winter. I can't find a dollar amount or details on the deal, but Reebok is positioning this as an athletics and fashion line. They're making a big bet on Reese to recapture some basketball relevance and cultural cahe.

Edit: There's already a Reebok x Angel collection, but that's curated items in specific colorways. They're lining up this new collection to be an event. I expect Reese has a good business team around her - she reportedly pulled in $1.7m in NIL money before the Reebok deal. I hope they really pushed for favorable terms with Reebok.
 

HomeRunBaker

bet squelcher
SoSH Member
Jan 15, 2004
31,237
So I'm a little unsure of the point you were trying to make, but I read this as a "yes-and" of my point about economics, underscoring it with a comparison to the NHL.

What I'd add to that is that there's a few main factors that drive the difference. But let's first talk about what's the same. The NBA, as is well known, guarantees players 51% of revenue ("basketball-related income"), which has a few carve-outs but is generally pretty comprehensive. The NHL, meanwhile, has the players' share of revenue set at 50%, with some escrowing similar to the NBA but basically no carve-outs. So given those revenue numbers, you'd expect players' shares to be pretty comparable.

But the first big difference is roster size. NHL rosters have minimum 20, max 23 (most carry 23), while NBA teams have minimum 12, max 15 (most carry 14-15), plus smaller things like two-way deals that are probably a wash in a comparison. So even on a per-player basis, just from that factor you'd expect NBA players to get 1.5x that of NHL players.

The second factor is deals struck to handle COVID financial fluctuations. NHL players basically got paid by league owners via deficit financing during the suspended seasons, and because of that debt and the terms agreed with the NHLPA, the salary cap hasn't gone up to match revenue. So we're at a cap of $83.5M / team, for a total possible league payroll of $2.67B which would be only 44.5% of projected revenue. Or about 10% less total player pay than you'd expect given the 50-50 revenue split. In the NBA, they initially dropped player pay by 25% for the balance of the 2019-2020 season, and then agreed on a max 20% player pay cut for the next season, kept the salary cap flat, basically constraining any rise in player payroll and handling shortfalls in league revenue (which were substantial) via increased escrowing. And now you have a total payroll this year of $4.85B, against a projected 2023-24 league revenue of $13B, (2021-22: $10B, 2022-23: $10.9B), which would only be 37.3% of revenue. So while league revenue has since recovered post-pandemic, it would appear that the players are still in arrears to the league based on the league not cutting player pay by as much as they could have, and instead smoothing the cap impact out, and then being made whole over the course of several years.

A third factor is the difference that a single player can make to the team, and thus the league's stratification of salaries from stars to scrubs. The NBA is famously stratified, hence Jaylen Brown's 35%-of-cap max getting to $60M, and the bottom-end players making $1.1-$1.9M (taking up 7% of the roster spots but ~1% of the average team payroll). VS nobody in the NHL really making much more than 10% of the cap, but a minimum salary of $750k, which proportionally is more generous than the NBA (minimum players each taking up ~4% of the roster spots but 0.9% of the average team payroll, so proportionally about double that of minimum players in the NBA). The NBA's stars basically take all the gains, whereas roster-building is much more of a complex puzzle in the NHL and you need to spread talent around a lot more. But the NBA's stars also take more of the minutes - you can only have 5 players on the floor, and come the playoffs, you're only playing 7-8 of them, and your stars can play 80-90% of the minutes, while in the NHL a star forward is still only playing 1/3 of the minutes and a star defenseman ~2/5ths of the minutes. Impact is very different between them, so you'd expect the salaries to be more stratified. This doesn't affect average player comp, but since you raised the maximum league salaries as a point of comparison, I thought it's worth addressing.

So averaging between those factors, if you assume a full 23-man roster and $83.5M salary cap for an NHL team, the average player is making $3.63M, while in the NBA, with a 15-man roster and ~$165M average team payroll, the average player makes $11M (hence that being the MLE amount), a ratio of ~3x more for the average NBA player, driven chiefly by the ~2x league revenue multiple favoring the NBA, and 1.5x bigger roster size in the NHL. I might have my numbers off, or there might be some pandemic-related escrowing that this isn't fully taken into account (e.g. player compensation isn't just the announced salaries, and we don't know the arrears / cap-smoothing situation of both leagues).

Bottom line: Players' total and average comp is about what you'd expect in both leagues, given their announced revenue sharing split with the players.

Bringing this back to the WNBA, it's unsurprising that women's basketball players average more than women's soccer players, because there's just so many more players per roster on a soccer team. There are also many fewer pro basketball player jobs available. 12 teams x roster size of 12 (vs 22-26 for soccer teams), even if that goes to 14 or 16 teams soon, it's still harder to get in the door as a player.

And the key economics factor that I'm tracking will be the revenue split, in both cases. As Kelsey Plum said above, WNBA players are getting about 21% of revenue, which is really low, and what you'd expect from a new league trying to constrain costs to reach financial stability and handle some expected big bumps and roadblocks along the way. I estimate NWSL payrolls at being about 18% of revenue, but their nearest competitor, the WSL in the UK, is probably paying 60-70% of (much lower) revenues to players this season. The WSL can afford to be that generous because their parent clubs are all Premier League financial behemoths and the women's team is a rounding error to them, but that's only sustainable so long as the league is showing revenue growth as a result of that investment. But long-term, you'd expect those numbers to both creep towards the 50% that mature, profitable sports leagues get to (50% for straight player payroll, 60-65% in total staff costs, which is how the soccer numbers are reported)
Holy Shit! It’s mid-April and we have a front runner for PCPOTY (Port Cellar Post of the Year!)

View: https://youtu.be/QWEcMqM0acU?si=llTtCnjfHBvfBJOW
 

Merkle's Boner

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 24, 2011
3,890
Was I the only one amused that during her SNL appearance, Clark shouted out a list of players who helped pave the way for her to the WNBA - and she didn't mention a single UConn player?
Tbf, she’s been very clear that her favorite player growing up was Maya Moore.
 

The Social Chair

Member
SoSH Member
Feb 17, 2010
6,342
Yeah, Wilson has a legitimate gripe with regards to the shoes. I am kind of shocked that Nike hasn't given her one yet especially after LeBron tweeted about it last year.
Also, the Sabrina Ionescu shoe is really popular so I would think they'd want to lean into it a little more
Several NBA players wear Sabrina's shoe. It's a good performance shoe.
 

BaseballJones

ivanvamp
SoSH Member
Oct 1, 2015
25,421
That's a custom colorway, Clark is getting a signature shoe, two VERY different things. As an example.. Tatum has a signature shoe, the Tatum 1 (and 2), it's his shoe with his name, his input etc. WIlson has a colorway of the Cosmic Unity, which is much different from a branding and $ perspective. Lots of players have shoe deals, many have custom colorways, but they don't own anything, it's just a unique visual on an existing shoe. A signature shoe deal is a much higher level, beyond the input... it has your name, you have a bigger financial stake, they can't release new ones after your deal ends without paying you etc.
Ah ok. Thanks. Did not know that.
 

BaseballJones

ivanvamp
SoSH Member
Oct 1, 2015
25,421
Heh, I didn't see it, but I kinda like it. I'm OK with UConn having become something of "the Duke of the women's game" in terms of antipathy, and "they hate us cause they ain't us" defensiveness on the other side. I got to enjoy a lot of that during the Patriots glory years, all of us here are used to it.

When he coached the USA Basketball team, Geno would sometimes do scrimmages of "ex UConn players vs everyone else", just to get 'em playing harder. He leans into it sometimes.

Clark being a little bitter that Geno didn't recruit her (like, at all) because he had already committed to a PG in Bueckers is fun. It's harmless sports fun. Paul Pierce was a little pissed that a boy from Inglewood didn't end up with the Lakers, and it helped make that chip on his shoulder a little bigger, too. If in a year or two, there are some Clark vs Bueckers WNBA matchups to watch, I bet more eyes will be on it because the rivalry thing isn't entirely invented. My eyes will certainly be more likely to be on it.
You could easily put together a UConn-only US Olympic team that would demolish the rest of the world:

G - Moriah Jefferson, Sue Bird, Crystal Dangerfield, Diana Taurasi
F - Breanna Stewart, Napheesa Collier, Katie Lou Samuelson, Azura Stevens, Evina Westbrook
C - Stefanie Dolson, Tina Charles, Kia Stokes
 

reggiecleveland

sublime
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Mar 5, 2004
28,226
Saskatoon Canada
You could easily put together a UConn-only US Olympic team that would demolish the rest of the world:

G - Moriah Jefferson, Sue Bird, Crystal Dangerfield, Diana Taurasi
F - Breanna Stewart, Napheesa Collier, Katie Lou Samuelson, Azura Stevens, Evina Westbrook
C - Stefanie Dolson, Tina Charles, Kia Stokes
The USA could easily sweep the medals if allowed three teams. At times I wish there was some perspective to how much better women athletes are treated in North America than the rest of the world.
 

Auger34

used to be tbb
SoSH Member
Apr 23, 2010
11,292
Greggggggg Doyel is a tremendous shithead; he’s exactly the guy from the Indy media scene you’d expect to step in it like this.

He also addressed his comments in this bizarre, terribly conceived article:

View: https://twitter.com/greggdoyelstar/status/1780782973475750290?s=46&t=1S4eWjX_rzBBrpPNddRPAg
Yeah, Doyel really doesn't get it. Showing her the heart sign and saying "happy you're here" is kind of creepy and not professional for sure....however, what makes it next level and why people want him to apologize...is the "Start doing it to me and we'll be just fine" shit. Which I don't even think he addresses in that article?
 

DennyDoyle'sBoil

Found no thrill on Blueberry Hill
SoSH Member
Sep 9, 2008
43,945
AZ
Yeah, Doyel really doesn't get it. Showing her the heart sign and saying "happy you're here" is kind of creepy and not professional for sure....however, what makes it next level and why people want him to apologize...is the "Start doing it to me and we'll be just fine" shit. Which I don't even think he addresses in that article?
Apparently, after the weird exchange, he asked the coach: "You were just given the keys to that [referring to CC], what are you going to do with it?" Not sure standing alone that would be noteworthy, but referring to Clark as a sportscar with weird pronouns while she's sitting right there also is kind of creepy after the weird exchange that preceeded it. Again, not trying to stretch to bury the guy, but in light of the overall weirdness of the whole thing, it's inelegant at best and creepy AF at worst.
 

InstaFace

The Ultimate One
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
23,184
Pittsburgh, PA
The Messi effect?

SPORTS ALERT: The Washington Mystics are moving their June 7 game against Indiana Fever and star point guard Caitlin Clark to Capital One Arena after receiving what the team described as an "unprecedented demand" for tickets.
They're actually somewhat late to this party, I think most of the Fever's road games have been moved to the local full-size NBA arena at this point. I think Vegas was the first. (fake edit: yep. Also, 36 of the 40 ESPN televised games this year will feature the Fever? Now THAT's what I call surrendering to reality.)

So you're not wrong, pretty similar to the Messi effect, honestly. Just that this has been on for several weeks, ever since the Sweet Sixteen or so, where people were like "ok wait, so obviously she's going #1. Who has the first pick? Indiana? OK great, and where and when are they playing? Let's go see her."
 

ManicCompression

Member
SoSH Member
May 14, 2015
1,480
I don’t really understand the idea that being a great player should necessarily equal shoe deal. Charisma is significantly more important than actual on court production, which is why some of the biggest sneakers of the last 40 years have been from Larry Johnson, Penny Hardaway, Kyrie Irving, etc. All really good players but not close to being the best player in the league.

Caitlin Clark is an amazing basketball player but more importantly, she has a ton of charisma and a playing style that gets people interested in the game. It makes total sense that this is rewarded while straightforward excellence on the court is not (why else would Allen Iverson get a bigger shoe deal than Tim Duncan? Ja Morant over Luka Doncic?) The original Jordans blew up because he was dunking from the free throw line, not because he was the nba champion/best player in the league. That came much later.
 

InstaFace

The Ultimate One
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
23,184
Pittsburgh, PA
More on the Clark Messi effect, from Front Office Sports:

---
The Caitlin Clark roadshow will likely end up being an expensive one, too. Here’s a snapshot of some median ticket prices for WNBA games with the Fever visiting, according to the secondary marketplace Gametime:

$615: Minnesota Lynx, July 14
$600: Chicago Sky, June 23
$583: Los Angeles Sparks, May 24
$530: Washington Mystics, June 7 (data pulled before move to Capital One Arena)
$354: Las Vegas Aces, May 25
---

Her jerseys are also sold out everywhere, with months-long waits expected for them at the moment.
 

67YAZ

Member
SoSH Member
Dec 1, 2000
9,202
$600: Chicago Sky, June 23
The already play at the United Center. For reference, SeatGeek says the average Bulls home ticket went for $32 this season. And you get Fever at Sky tix for $17 least year.

And as a tangent because I know you’re into this - the Red Stars almost sold out their June 7th match at Wrigley Field vs Bay FC. Tickets run $66-259 and there’s fewer than 200 seats left. If the Red Stars could get into a stadium easily accessible by CTA, they’d move from bottom of NWSL to near top in attendance.

It’s an exciting time for women’s sports.
 
Last edited:

Auger34

used to be tbb
SoSH Member
Apr 23, 2010
11,292
I don’t really understand the idea that being a great player should necessarily equal shoe deal. Charisma is significantly more important than actual on court production, which is why some of the biggest sneakers of the last 40 years have been from Larry Johnson, Penny Hardaway, Kyrie Irving, etc. All really good players but not close to being the best player in the league.

Caitlin Clark is an amazing basketball player but more importantly, she has a ton of charisma and a playing style that gets people interested in the game. It makes total sense that this is rewarded while straightforward excellence on the court is not (why else would Allen Iverson get a bigger shoe deal than Tim Duncan? Ja Morant over Luka Doncic?) The original Jordans blew up because he was dunking from the free throw line, not because he was the nba champion/best player in the league. That came much later.
A’Ja Wilson is pretty charismatic and definitely has a personality. She’s not anything like Tim Duncan
 

Remagellan

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Was I the only one amused that during her SNL appearance, Clark shouted out a list of players who helped pave the way for her to the WNBA - and she didn't mention a single UConn player?
Tbf, she’s been very clear that her favorite player growing up was Maya Moore.
On SNL, Maya Moore was the last player she mentioned during her listing of former WNBA greats, and she even singled her out from the rest as her personal hero growing up as MB posted.
 

ManicCompression

Member
SoSH Member
May 14, 2015
1,480
A’Ja Wilson is pretty charismatic and definitely has a personality. She’s not anything like Tim Duncan
I think you’re missing my point. Popularity and marketability isn’t just down to how good of a basketball player you are. It’s a mix of that plus how you play the game - basically how much you entertain people. As we can see from WNBA ratings the last 20+ years, there’s not been a lot of entertaining going on, and so it would make sense that there’s not a lot of shoe deals either. Caitlin Clark very much entertains people, whether as a hero or a heel, and that crosses over into the mainstream like 20x better than any female player before her. It’s great that A’ja Wilson has more personality than Tim Duncan - I bet you 90% of America has never heard of her, likely because she’s not shooting from the logo or playing the villain with the ferocity of Clark.
 

BaseballJones

ivanvamp
SoSH Member
Oct 1, 2015
25,421
The A'ja Wilson Effect:
- In her last NCAA game, a regional final loss to undefeated UConn, attendance was 9,522 (capacity 17,500) on March 26, 2018.
- Her first year in the WNBA, 2018, the Aces drew an average of 5,307 fans per game, 9th out of 12 franchises.
- 2019 attendance: 4,669 a game (9th)
- 2021 attendance (2020 was in the "wubble" due to Covid): 3,127 a game (3rd) - A'ja was coming off her 2020 MVP
- 2022 attendance: 5,606 a game (7th)
- 2023 attendance: 9,551 a game (1st) - this was coming off their 2022 WNBA championship, and A'ja's second MVP

For the first 4 years in the league, Wilson had essentially zero impact on WNBA attendance or viewership. She did manage to rank 4th in the WNBA in 2021 in jersey sales, behind Ionescu, Bird, and Taurasi.

The Caitlin Clark Effect:
- In her last NCAA game, the national championship against South Carolina, attendance was 18,300 (capacity 19,432), and for the first time in history the women outdrew the men in terms of TV viewership, with an average of 18.9 million viewers compared with 14.8 million for the men's championship. (peak viewership of 24.1 million). The audience was 295% higher than just two years ago, and up 90% over last year's game featuring Iowa and LSU.
- 2023 Indiana Fever attendance: 4,066 a game (11th)
- 2024 Indiana Fever attendance: well, let's just say that the ticket prices for Fever games have gone from $60 on average in 2023 to $174 on average in 2024. Average resale price on secondary markets is $182 per ticket for Fever home games, an increase of 136% from last year, and $211 per ticket for road games, an increase of 211%.

Here's what each team's average resale home ticket prices are, compared to when they host the Fever:

Atlanta: $176 vs. $257 (46% increase)
Chicago: $142 vs. $176 (24% increase)
Connecticut: $128 vs. $143 (12% increase)
Dallas: $209 vs. $261 (25% increase)
Las Vegas: $137 vs. $191 (39% increase)
Los Angeles: $126 vs. $223 (77% increase)
Minnesota: $190 vs. $303 (59% increase)
New York: $197 vs. $239 (21% increase)
Phoenix: $197 vs. $271 (38% increase)
Seattle: $112 vs. $128 (14% increase)
Washington: $230 vs. $322 (40% increase)

So fans all over are paying a LOT more to see Clark in the WNBA than they are their own home teams. In Vegas, people are willing to pay $137 to see A'ja Wilson play, but are willing to pay 39% more ($191) to see Clark come to town.

No other player in WNBA history has warped ticket prices/sales like this. Nobody has ever been close. Heck, Clark *already* has the top-selling WNBA jersey of all time, and the season hasn't even started yet. Her jersey reportedly is the top selling jersey for a draft pick, *across all sports*, in history.

I know it may seem unfair that a rookie who hasn't played a single minute in the WNBA has a lucrative shoe deal compared to one of the proven best players in the world, but Wilson never, ever, ever moved the needle in terms of attendance, or people watching, or merchandise sales, or ticket prices, like Clark has. (remember, Michael Jordan signed his shoe deal on Nov 17, 1984, early in his rookie year, when he'd only played 10 games to that point in his career, and wasn't even the top pick in the NBA draft)

It's tempting to think this is unfair, or racist. It might have some racist undertones - fans wanting to watch a great white player over a great black player - but I don't think that's it. Untold millions of white people happily buy Kobe or Jordan shoes and merch. It's just that some people, either due to skill or charisma or whatever, are more marketable than others. As we've already seen, Tim Duncan was the best player in the NBA for years and never got a shoe deal. Jokic is the best player on planet earth and he doesn't have a shoe deal (I'd think he would be crazy marketable, but apparently not). (edit: I guess as of Dec 2023 he signed a shoe deal with 361, whoever that is)

But it's just marketing and economics. It's just that Caitlin Clark has brought the women's game forward at light speed, unlike anything we've ever seen before. It's a very easy (and accurate) explanation to the question of why Wilson doesn't have a shoe deal but Clark does.
 

ManicCompression

Member
SoSH Member
May 14, 2015
1,480
The A'ja Wilson Effect:
- In her last NCAA game, a regional final loss to undefeated UConn, attendance was 9,522 (capacity 17,500) on March 26, 2018.
- Her first year in the WNBA, 2018, the Aces drew an average of 5,307 fans per game, 9th out of 12 franchises.
- 2019 attendance: 4,669 a game (9th)
- 2021 attendance (2020 was in the "wubble" due to Covid): 3,127 a game (3rd) - A'ja was coming off her 2020 MVP
- 2022 attendance: 5,606 a game (7th)
- 2023 attendance: 9,551 a game (1st) - this was coming off their 2022 WNBA championship, and A'ja's second MVP

For the first 4 years in the league, Wilson had essentially zero impact on WNBA attendance or viewership. She did manage to rank 4th in the WNBA in 2021 in jersey sales, behind Ionescu, Bird, and Taurasi.

The Caitlin Clark Effect:
- In her last NCAA game, the national championship against South Carolina, attendance was 18,300 (capacity 19,432), and for the first time in history the women outdrew the men in terms of TV viewership, with an average of 18.9 million viewers compared with 14.8 million for the men's championship. (peak viewership of 24.1 million). The audience was 295% higher than just two years ago, and up 90% over last year's game featuring Iowa and LSU.
- 2023 Indiana Fever attendance: 4,066 a game (11th)
- 2024 Indiana Fever attendance: well, let's just say that the ticket prices for Fever games have gone from $60 on average in 2023 to $174 on average in 2024. Average resale price on secondary markets is $182 per ticket for Fever home games, an increase of 136% from last year, and $211 per ticket for road games, an increase of 211%.

Here's what each team's average resale home ticket prices are, compared to when they host the Fever:

Atlanta: $176 vs. $257 (46% increase)
Chicago: $142 vs. $176 (24% increase)
Connecticut: $128 vs. $143 (12% increase)
Dallas: $209 vs. $261 (25% increase)
Las Vegas: $137 vs. $191 (39% increase)
Los Angeles: $126 vs. $223 (77% increase)
Minnesota: $190 vs. $303 (59% increase)
New York: $197 vs. $239 (21% increase)
Phoenix: $197 vs. $271 (38% increase)
Seattle: $112 vs. $128 (14% increase)
Washington: $230 vs. $322 (40% increase)

So fans all over are paying a LOT more to see Clark in the WNBA than they are their own home teams. In Vegas, people are willing to pay $137 to see A'ja Wilson play, but are willing to pay 39% more ($191) to see Clark come to town.

No other player in WNBA history has warped ticket prices/sales like this. Nobody has ever been close. Heck, Clark *already* has the top-selling WNBA jersey of all time, and the season hasn't even started yet. Her jersey reportedly is the top selling jersey for a draft pick, *across all sports*, in history.

I know it may seem unfair that a rookie who hasn't played a single minute in the WNBA has a lucrative shoe deal compared to one of the proven best players in the world, but Wilson never, ever, ever moved the needle in terms of attendance, or people watching, or merchandise sales, or ticket prices, like Clark has. (remember, Michael Jordan signed his shoe deal on Nov 17, 1984, early in his rookie year, when he'd only played 10 games to that point in his career, and wasn't even the top pick in the NBA draft)

It's tempting to think this is unfair, or racist. It might have some racist undertones - fans wanting to watch a great white player over a great black player - but I don't think that's it. Untold millions of white people happily buy Kobe or Jordan shoes and merch. It's just that some people, either due to skill or charisma or whatever, are more marketable than others. As we've already seen, Tim Duncan was the best player in the NBA for years and never got a shoe deal. Jokic is the best player on planet earth and he doesn't have a shoe deal (I'd think he would be crazy marketable, but apparently not). (edit: I guess as of Dec 2023 he signed a shoe deal with 361, whoever that is)

But it's just marketing and economics. It's just that Caitlin Clark has brought the women's game forward at light speed, unlike anything we've ever seen before. It's a very easy (and accurate) explanation to the question of why Wilson doesn't have a shoe deal but Clark does.
I really just don’t think it’s that complicated. A Wilson highlight reel is post moves, mid-rangers, and blocks on players half her size. Bball heads may be amazed by that, but the average person doesn’t find that impressive because they can see that anywhere. A Clark highlight reel is full of long distance threes and no look passes, a female Steph Curry, and that is something you don’t see everyday. The average person flocks to sports to be amazed and Clark amazes the viewer unlike any player before. If it were something as simple as race, why didn’t Sue Bird get an 8 figure Nike deal? Or Taurasi? It’s a stupid argument. There’s nothing unfair about it, just like there’s nothing unfair about Wilt Chamberlain or Shaq having more fame and endorsements than George Mikan.
 

BaseballJones

ivanvamp
SoSH Member
Oct 1, 2015
25,421
I really just don’t think it’s that complicated. A Wilson highlight reel is post moves, mid-rangers, and blocks on players half her size. Bball heads may be amazed by that, but the average person doesn’t find that impressive because they can see that anywhere. A Clark highlight reel is full of long distance threes and no look passes, a female Steph Curry, and that is something you don’t see everyday. The average person flocks to sports to be amazed and Clark amazes the viewer unlike any player before. If it were something as simple as race, why didn’t Sue Bird get an 8 figure Nike deal? Or Taurasi? It’s a stupid argument. There’s nothing unfair about it, just like there’s nothing unfair about Wilt Chamberlain or Shaq having more fame and endorsements than George Mikan.
We are saying the same thing. I just wanted to bring up the data showing how big Clark’s impact has been on the game.
 

Remagellan

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
We are saying the same thing. I just wanted to bring up the data showing how big Clark’s impact has been on the game.
I appreciate your post and have already shared it with friends to spark a similar discussion. It was extremely helpful to have the numbers laid out as you did. It's the sports equivalent of "It's the economy, stupid." It showed that Caitlin Clark makes the money she does because she makes money for the corporate interests in her sport to a degree that no other player ever has.
 

ManicCompression

Member
SoSH Member
May 14, 2015
1,480
We are saying the same thing. I just wanted to bring up the data showing how big Clark’s impact has been on the game.
Yep yep - apologies, mine was a "yes and" post.

Edit: And just to put a button on this, you say "I know it may seem unfair that a rookie who hasn't played a single minute in the WNBA has a lucrative shoe deal compared to one of the proven best players in the world..."

We literally just saw this a few years ago when Zion entered the league and half of the NOLA games were on national TV despite him never playing an NBA minute because he made games a spectacle. This is what happens when incredible athleticism captures the imagination of the country.
 
Last edited:

InstaFace

The Ultimate One
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
23,184
Pittsburgh, PA
That's a great post, @BaseballJones . I love the selected stats.

You could throw the draft-viewership-by-year chart from the other day onto the evidence pile, too. That one was jaw-dropping for me. I've never watched a sports draft in my life despite being a pretty big sports fan, it's always seemed like something only the total sickos do... and now here are all these people, millions of people, who tuned in to watch, not the NFL draft, but the WNBA draft, pretty much just because of her. A chance to see her, dressed up at a proud moment and transition in her career. A moment she was honored ahead of her peers. I don't know what it compares to in sports history - Lance Armstrong getting people to watch cycling? Tiger Woods raising and diversifying golf viewership? - but it's permeated well beyond ordinary sports-fan behavior, or mere incremental changes to interest levels.

In women's sports, the #1 inflection point was the 1999 Women's World Cup and how much the USA team captured the zeitgeist that summer. But while that launched 3 subsequent attempts at a pro league (the third one stuck!) and much higher viewership for USWNT fanhood going forward, the attention levels also petered out from that high. They sold out the Rose Bowl, they won the game in dramatic fashion, there was the sports-bra image plastered all over every bit of sports media, the President attended the game in person, it was nightly-news material... and then it was over, the zeitgeist moved on, the closing credits rolled. It left a mark, some residual interest, and minted millions of young girls as soccer players and fans, which percolated up to the subsequent generations - but the impact tapered significantly. And what we're seeing here is that "Caitlin Clark, college superstar, can she drag her team to a title?" is not the end of the storyline that kept fans interested and tuning in. It's persisting beyond that. And maybe this will prove to be another significant inflection point for women's sports, one with even more staying power than the '99ers.
 

Devizier

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 3, 2000
19,981
Somewhere
Honestly, Clark’s style is pretty much what the women’s game should have leaned into ages ago. In retrospect you’d have thought a Clark would have emerged earlier than a Curry, given the physical differences between the leagues.
 

BaseballJones

ivanvamp
SoSH Member
Oct 1, 2015
25,421
That's a great post, @BaseballJones . I love the selected stats.

You could throw the draft-viewership-by-year chart from the other day onto the evidence pile, too. That one was jaw-dropping for me. I've never watched a sports draft in my life despite being a pretty big sports fan, it's always seemed like something only the total sickos do... and now here are all these people, millions of people, who tuned in to watch, not the NFL draft, but the WNBA draft, pretty much just because of her. A chance to see her, dressed up at a proud moment and transition in her career. A moment she was honored ahead of her peers. I don't know what it compares to in sports history - Lance Armstrong getting people to watch cycling? Tiger Woods raising and diversifying golf viewership? - but it's permeated well beyond ordinary sports-fan behavior, or mere incremental changes to interest levels.

In women's sports, the #1 inflection point was the 1999 Women's World Cup and how much the USA team captured the zeitgeist that summer. But while that launched 3 subsequent attempts at a pro league (the third one stuck!) and much higher viewership for USWNT fanhood going forward, the attention levels also petered out from that high. They sold out the Rose Bowl, they won the game in dramatic fashion, there was the sports-bra image plastered all over every bit of sports media, the President attended the game in person, it was nightly-news material... and then it was over, the zeitgeist moved on, the closing credits rolled. It left a mark, some residual interest, and minted millions of young girls as soccer players and fans, which percolated up to the subsequent generations - but the impact tapered significantly. And what we're seeing here is that "Caitlin Clark, college superstar, can she drag her team to a title?" is not the end of the storyline that kept fans interested and tuning in. It's persisting beyond that. And maybe this will prove to be another significant inflection point for women's sports, one with even more staying power than the '99ers.
Agreed. I think the one thing that could derail this train is if Clark turns out to be just meh in the WNBA, which isn't an impossibility. Lots and lots of great college athletes have been meh in the pros. I am not sure she will be free to do whatever she wants in the WNBA, which is part of what made her great in college. And her team might not have that much success, when compared with Iowa. She may end up being just another good player in the pros, which would dim her star quite a bit for a lot of people.

But what she's done for the women's game is beyond incredible. I hope the game has sustained increase in popularity.
 

tims4wins

PN23's replacement
SoSH Member
Jul 15, 2005
38,887
Hingham, MA
Agreed. I think the one thing that could derail this train is if Clark turns out to be just meh in the WNBA, which isn't an impossibility. Lots and lots of great college athletes have been meh in the pros. I am not sure she will be free to do whatever she wants in the WNBA, which is part of what made her great in college. And her team might not have that much success, when compared with Iowa. She may end up being just another good player in the pros, which would dim her star quite a bit for a lot of people.

But what she's done for the women's game is beyond incredible. I hope the game has sustained increase in popularity.
JJ Redick is the first name that came to mind.

But Clark is a more well-rounded offensive player. Redick couldn't handle the ball, he had to play entirely off-ball.
 

BaseballJones

ivanvamp
SoSH Member
Oct 1, 2015
25,421
JJ Redick is the first name that came to mind.

But Clark is a more well-rounded offensive player. Redick couldn't handle the ball, he had to play entirely off-ball.
The list of great college players that weren’t that great in the pros is enormously long.

I think Clark will be a great WNBA player but it’s not a guarantee and if she isn’t, then we’ll see how long the Clark Effect (TM) lasts.