From New York, Koen van der Velden highlights developments in American sports each week. Today: How basketball star Kaitlyn Clark became a phenomenon.
On paper, she’s still an amateur, but Caitlin Clark (21) is already one of the most famous athletes in the United States. The University of Iowa basketball star has made her trademark long-distance 3-pointers, raising the popularity of women’s basketball to new heights. Since its big launch in the spring, it has had a choice of sponsors.
For Clark specifically, the data analysts had to revise their definition of a bad basketball shot. A player who plays from beyond nine meters usually does so only out of necessity, because the seconds are ticking on the shot clock and there is no way out. But not Clark. Once she crosses the center line, the basket is within her reach.
About the author
Koen van der Velden describes De Volkskrant About sports in the United States. Lives in New York.
The average is 31 points
Data shows that her accuracy increases when she stands a few meters behind the three-point line (6.7 metres). “These are the shots I constantly work on in training,” Clark said. New York times. Due in part to her 3-pointers, the fourth-year senior is currently the nation’s leading scorer averaging 31 points per game, having also collected the most points in her first two seasons.
And when Clark joined her staff in 2020, Iowa State coach Lisa Bluder also had to adjust her thinking. Clark likes to launch a quick counterattack when the shot clock starts counting down. If someone else had the idea, it would make a quick turnaround, but Bluder is happy to make an exception for Clark.
At 1.83 meters tall and with slender limbs, Clarke does not at first glance look like a powerhouse basketball star, but appearances can be deceiving. She gets the power for her 3-pointers from her legs. By placing her feet firmly under her body, she creates the foundation for launches. “There’s no such thing as a bad shot for her,” said star basketball player Stephen Curry, a Clark fan. His game has similarities to Clark’s. “It adds an element of surprise that is difficult for teams to prepare for.”
In the corridor
Shooting was part of Clark’s passion from an early age. At the age of 10, she began working from larger and larger distances in her parents’ driveway. She moved backwards step by step, until her father had to remove a patch of grass to give her more space. It wasn’t long before her two brothers, one older and one younger, were unable to keep up with her.
As a kid from the area, Clark has been a local hero for years. The basketball star grew up in West Des Moines, a two-hour drive from college in Iowa City. A statue of Clark was displayed this year at a major annual exhibition in her home state. It was made of butter, a local honor that Elvis Presley and Abraham Lincoln received posthumously.
Clark gained national fame last year for her performance in college basketball’s annual final tournament, March Madness. She was the first woman ever, male or female, to score 40 points as well as double figures in rebounds and assists in a college game. Clark single-handedly carried underdog Iowa to the finals, which attracted 12 million viewers nationwide. Iowa State lost to LSU.
An amazing few weeks made her an American celebrity in one fell swoop. Clarke took two weeks off, during which her coach wouldn’t let her touch the ball, but then she immersed herself fully in the life of a celebrity. She attracted the most attention at a charity golf tournament, was a guest star at an IndyCar race, scored a Nike commercial, and was allowed to throw the first pitch in a baseball game. Spectators lined up for hours to catch a glimpse of her.
out of stock
In preparation for the current season, Clark and her team played an outdoor exhibition match in front of more than 55,000 spectators at her university’s American football stadium. Season tickets for Iowa’s home games went on sale in August. Never happened before.
“I didn’t know the lights would be this bright,” Clark said. “If there’s anyone who can handle it, it’s Caitlin,” Coach Bluder said.
Her fame doesn’t hurt Clark. For several years now, top student athletes in the United States have been allowed to profit from sponsorship deals, and the basketball star is very popular among investors. Clark is the poster boy for Nike, the maker of Bose headphones and the Buick automobile brand.
She also appeared in commercials for insurance company State Farm for several weeks, alongside NBA star Jimmy Butler. According to On3, an online platform that tracks income from student athletes, Clark earns more than $750,000 in sponsorship income.
That’s significantly more than the $234,000 salary cap in the WNBA (where the top players also earn a lot of advertising revenue).
Clark will celebrate her twenty-second birthday next January, and then she can begin her professional career next season. But since she missed a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, she also has the option of staying at Iowa State for an additional year. “It will be a difficult decision,” Clark told the magazine. Sports Illustrated. “I love Iowa State, but a professional career is something I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid.”
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