Caitlin Clark fuels ‘incredible’ night in first game vs Seattle Storm

May 23, 2024, 1:11 AM | Updated: 3:16 pm

Seattle Storm play against Caitlin Clark...

Caitlin Clark of the Indiana Fever signs autographs prior to a 2024 game in Seattle. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

SEATTLE – It was unquestionably a special evening for basketball in Seattle on Wednesday night when Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever came to town to take on the Seattle Storm.

Jewell Loyd’s 32 points leads Storm past Caitlin Clark’s Fever

The rookie sensation helped the Storm draw a sold-out crowd of 18,343 fans to Climate Pledge Arena, which set a new franchise record. And there was an undeniable buzz in the arena from the moment Clark stepped on the court and was swarmed for autographs during warmups.

That’s been the norm for the former Iowa star and all-time NCAA scoring leader. Clark captivated the nation during her collegiate career with the Hawkeyes. As a senior last season, she led the nation in scoring at 31.6 points per game and led Iowa to the national title game, becoming the first player to accomplish both feats in the same campaign.

Clark now plays for the team that had the third-worst record in the WNBA last season and is 0-5 after Wednesday’s 85-83 loss to the Storm. But that hasn’t dampened any of the hype surrounding the 22-year-old phenom. The jersey manufacturer Fanatics sold out of most sizes of Clark’s Fever jersey within an hour of her being drafted.

“It was pretty incredible. That crowd and that environment was great, just looking around at like a sea of people on both sides, behind the baskets,” Clark said after Wednesday’s game. “It was a great game. Obviously I would’ve loved if we would have won, but I hope these fans continue to still show up for Seattle. They’ve got a great team. Hopefully when we come back here they’ll be here. It’s so fun playing in front of those environments.”

Clark and peers Angel Reese and Cameron Brink headline a talented rookie class that has added excitement to the growing WNBA. The Associated Press’ Doug Feinberg reported that the league saw a 14% increase in attendance during the opening week of the season. Clark’s debut against the New York Liberty also drew record viewership numbers on ESPN. The 2.1 million average viewers of the broadcast was the best ever for a WNBA game on the network, and ESPN’s five broadcasted games in the season’s first week saw an average of 1.43 million viewers, an increase of 181% from the first five games broadcasted last season.

“It’s definitely hard to put into perspective the reach and impact you have not only across the country, but really across the world,” Clark said, “and that’s obviously something I hope and want to do, especially because we want to make women’s basketball even more global than it already is, and impact people with (showing) young boys and young girls what basketball can do for their lives. So it’s definitely hard to put into perspective, and it’s cool for me to have people come up to me (around the world) that say they’re fans and they love women’s basketball and they love the teams I’ve been a part of.”

The sellout crowd at Climate Pledge Arena included a number of well-known Seattle Sports stars. Tyler Lockett, Jaxon Smith-Ngjiba and a slew of their Seattle Seahawks teammates were among the many in attendance, as well as former UW Huskies and NBA standouts Detlef Schrempf and Isaiah Thomas, and former Storm forward Gabby Williams. It was the Storm’s first sellout since 2022, and the attention that Clark commanded to women’s basketball in Seattle didn’t go unnoticed by her opponents.

“Amazing. I think it’s great for the city of Seattle,” Storm coach Noelle Quinn said of the turnout. “I think it’s great for women’s basketball (and) basketball in general to have an ability to put new eyes on the game and generate this magnetic energy that’s coming from basketball. I love it. I love that I was a part of it, and hopefully we can keep it flowing.”

Video: Caitlin Clark brings record crowd to game at Seattle Storm

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