What WNBA Players Are Saying About Caitlin Clark

After an impressive high school basketball career, star player Caitlin Clark kicked off her college career with the Iowa Hawkeyes, where she trained under coach Lisa Bluder. "I think their play style is really good. What Coach Bluder has done with point guards is obviously very promising, along with their development of players in general. I want to go to the next level and seeing that is really encouraging. I think playing for your home state is always special," Clark told Sports Illustrated of her decision to join the team. Unsurprisingly, Clark shone brightly as a Hawk.

By the end of her college career, Clark had made history as the Hawkeyes' all-time leading scorer, NCAA Division I men's and women's scoring leader, and an all-time leader among points in major women's college basketball players. Then, in April 2024, she was named 1st overall pick by the Indiana Fever in the WNBA draft, opening her up to an even wider audience and bigger opportunities.

But beyond leaving an impression on major basketball stakeholders, Clark also won over fans' support with her impressive skills. During her time in the NCAA, the two-time AP Player of the Year was credited for popularizing women's basketball, translating to increased game attendance and television viewership. Clark's fame, however, was not limited to her collegiate career, trailing behind her all the way to the pro level. Unsurprisingly, Clark's fame and entry into the WNBA got many of the league's players talking. Though a few voiced support for the young player, a few others had quite a lot to get off their chest.

Kate Martin admitted playing against Caitlin Clark is weird

While playing for the Iowa Hawkeyes, Caitlin Clark formed a close bond with her teammates, specifically point guard and team captain Kate Martin. "She's somebody that's wired the same way as me. At times, that means me and Kate butt heads, but at the end of the day, we know how much we love each other," Clark gushed to the New York Times in a March 2024 interview. Unfortunately, the WNBA draft placed Clark and Martin on different teams, potentially threatening their close friendship. While Clark made it to the Indiana Fever team, Martin was drafted 18th overall pick by the Las Vegas Aces. "I miss her a lot. I spent every day with her the last four years, and I haven't seen her in like a month and a half," Martin admitted to the Associated Press.

Similarly, Clark gave a glimpse into their friendship in a press briefing, noting that they had spent a lot of time together while at Iowa. "We've talked every single day, I call her if not texted her every single day," Clark added. The former teammates, however, soon reunited in May 2024 when the Indiana Fever played against the Las Vegas Aces. Though the game ended in a 99-80 win for the Aces, Martin would later admit that playing against Clark wasn't as breezy as it seemed. "It was weird, I'm not gonna lie," Martin shared in an interview.

Sue Bird thanked Caitlin for elevating women's basketball

Veteran basketball player Sue Bird has nothing but respect for Caitlin Clark. Following the Iowa Hawkeyes' loss to South Carolina at the final 2024 NCAA women's basketball championship game, Bird shared a heartfelt message directed to Clark. "What a season @IowaWBB and what a career @CaitlinClark22. We undoubtedly watched one of the all-time best college careers....ring or not. Thank you for helping elevate our sport with your play, your poise, and of course your logo 3s! I can't wait to watch you at the next level!" Bird wrote on X (formerly Twitter). In a previous interview with Wall Street Journal, Bird had praised Clark's distinct playing style, describing it as "jaw-dropping" and "eye-popping." 

When she is not being a fan, however, the former Seattle Storm player wears her mentor hat to share some anecdotal gems with Clark. In a May 2024 press briefing, Clark opened up about her interaction with Bird, revealing the advice the veteran athlete gave. "I don't think she said anything specifically about being a rookie. I think one of the biggest pieces of advice she has said is just, 'continue to be yourself,' " Clark explained. Additionally, Bird encouraged Clark to face challenges head-on and ultimately learn from them. "[Bird] said there's always going to be learning curves and challenges. And just being able to learn from that and grow, and having a little grace in that, too."

Angel Reese said she doesn't hate Caitlin

In her college career, Caitlin Clark found an ultimate rival in Angel Reese, who initially played for The Maryland Terrapins before transferring to the LSU Tigers. Rumors of a feud between the two players started swirling in April 2023 after Reese directed the John Cena "You Can't See Me" hand sign to Clark during the 2023 NCAA final Championship game. Despite the pair's attempts at laying rumors to rest, however, fans continued to pit them against each other.

So, when Clark and Reese were named as the 1st and 7th overall picks, respectively, in the 2024 WNBA draft, rumors ramped up, with many drawing parallels to Magic Johnson and Larry Bird's infamous on-court rivalry. "One week in and it is readily apparent that Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese's Star power have elevated the WNBA to another level just like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson resurrected the NBA back in the day," one person wrote on X.

Responding to the rumors, however, Reese explained she had no ill feelings towards Clark. "I think people just take it like we hate each other. Me and Caitlin Clark don't hate each other. I want everybody to understand that. It's just a super competitive game," she shared, per Associated Press. In a separate interview with USA Today, the Chicago Sky player also denied being jealous of Clark's fame and success, noting that she is only grateful to be a part of the WNBA history.

Temi Fagbenle called Clark a smart player

While she might have made a name for herself as a college player, Caitlin Clark was expected to live up to the hype in the WNBA. Even as a rookie, the Iowa native kept up her impressive streak, proving herself a formidable player on the court. Unsurprisingly, Clark made quite the impression on many of the league's longtime players, including her teammate Temi Fagbenle of the 2016 draft class.

In a post-practice interview, Fagbenle, who signed with the Fever in January 2024, praised Clark's skills and strategic positioning on the court. "She's a smart player, I'm a smart player ... I'm always sprinting the floor and she's a great passer and she's always going to pass it when I'm open. It's really amazing because we haven't had many practices together," Fagbenle shared.

Fagbenle also lauded Clark for her attentiveness and playmaking skills, which translate to a better overall performance for the Fever. "I've only had a few of those kind of point guards, who you just know sees the play before it's happened. Regular point guards, I'm like, they didn't see it ... but Caitlin saw that before I was open!" Fagbenle exclaimed. Additionally, the former Minnesota Lynx player lauded Clark's advanced talent, pointing out that even as a rookie, she could permanently change the face of women's basketball.

Diana Taurasi warned Caitlin about the future

During Iowa's Final Four NCAA game against UConn in April 2024, Diana Taurasi sparked outrage after revealing she would not select Caitlin Clark as her No. 1 pick in a draft. "I'm taking Paige. Next question," Taurasi said on an ESPN broadcast in response to being asked for her first pick between the former Hawkeyes star and Paige Bueckers if they were in the same draft class.

The veteran basketball player ruffled even more feathers after suggesting that Clark would face obstacles as she transitions to the WNBA from a college career. "There's levels to this thing. And that's just life. We all went through it. You see it on the NBA side, and you're going to see it on this side. You look superhuman playing against 18-year-olds, but you're going to (be playing against) some grown women that have been playing professional basketball for a long time," Taurasi explained in an alternate ESPN broadcast

But while she might have made the comment in good faith, Clark's fans were not too keen on Taurasi's comments, with many dubbing her as hateful and envious. Reacting to the backlash, however, Taurasi doubled down on her claims, noting in a media briefing that she spoke based on the reality of life and personal experience. "It's kind of like when you go from kindergarten to first grade; there's a learning adjustment. When you go from high school to college there's a learning adjustment," Taurasi added.  

A'ja Wilson believes Clark's fame is influenced by race

In addition to making her a household name, Caitlin Clark's college career also launched her as a favorite among top sports brands. Therefore, it was no surprise when in April 2024, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Hawkeyes star was gearing up to sign an eight-year, $28 million deal with Nike. But while Clark's meteoric rise is inspiring, to say the least, Las Vegas Aces player A'ja Wilson can't help but believe it to be propelled by her race. "I think it's a huge thing. I think a lot of people may say it's not about Black and white, but to me, it is," Wilson explained to the Associated Press.

Wilson further shared her frustration in the interview, noting that Black women in basketball hardly ever got the same level of recognition despite working just as hard as their white counterparts. "It doesn't matter what we all do as Black women, we're still going to be swept underneath the rug. That's why it boils my blood when people say it's not about race because it is."

Responding to Wilson's comments, however, Clark seemingly refuted Wilson's claims, noting that WNBA players were given the same opportunities regardless of their race. Additionally, Clark shared that diversity in the WNBA was also a key factor for its increasing popularity. "I think the more we can spread the love, show people, show their talent, show their teams — that's just going to continue to elevate it," Clark added.

Breanna Stewart doesn't agree Clark is one of the greatest college basketball players

Caitlin Clark might be ranked as one of the greatest college basketball players of all time, but a few others, including Breanna Stewart, don't quite agree. During an appearance on SiriusXM's "College Sports," Stewart, a four-time NCAA champion, highlighted that Clark did not deserve to be called one of the greatest college basketball players of all time since she never won an NCAA championship. "Yeah, she does [need a title]. I think so ... anybody knows your goal when you play college basketball is to win a national championship. So you need one," Stewart explained. Unsurprisingly, Stewart's comments were not well received, with many social media users dubbing it as an attempt at belittling Clark's talent and popularity. "All due respect but this is silly and it's too late: she's already one of the greats," one fan tweeted on X

Stewart sparked even more outrage in June 2024 after insisting physicality was a big part of basketball. At the time, fans had raised concerns over Clark's frequent hard hits from her opponents in the league. "This is the best league in the world. No one is going to give you anything easy. The fastest, the strongest, the quickest — that's why this is the WNBA," Stewart shared in a post-game press conference

Despite the controversial nature of her comments, however, Stewart holds a lot of respect for Clark, with the veteran player maintaining that she had no animosity towards the rookie player whom she described as a "great player" in an interview with USA Today. "I'm really excited for what [Clark] is going to do in the W," she added.

Brittney Griner has some advice for Clark

Brittney Griner, selected No. 1 overall pick by the Phoenix Mercury in the 2013 draft class, has some words of wisdom for Caitlin Clark. In an exclusive May 2024 interview with People, Griner voiced her support for Clark's entry into the WNBA and the popularity she brought to the league. "The hype that Caitlin and some others have right now is amazing for the league. There's good talent coming in," Griner shared.

Griner, a former star college player herself, also offered a word of advice to Clark, echoing that transitioning to the WNBA would be a lot harder than it appeared. "I had to get stronger, lock in a little more. There will be some growing [pains] for her, but she'll be fine. It's different when you come from college to the pros," the two-time Olympic gold medalist shared. 

Of the possible challenges, Griner drew from her personal experience, recounting how she struggled as a rookie in the WNBA. Admittedly, Griner had to toughen up to meet up with the league's fierceness. "I went from top dog to my numbers going down a bit. You're going up against grown women. This is how they feed their families. This is not just for the love of the [game]. This is their livelihood," Griner explained of the difference between college basketball and the pro league.

Female athletes outside of basketball weigh in

Caitlin Clark might be dominating the WNBA, but her popularity goes beyond just basketball. In April 2024, retired soccer player Megan Rapinoe declared herself a big fan of Clark, adding that she looked forward to seeing her play in person. "I'm going to the game when they play in Seattle and will be back here for the one in New York. I'm just as big a fan as anyone," Rapinoe gushed to People in an interview.

Similarly, tennis star Martina Navratilova voiced her support for Clark amid the perceived bullying from veteran players of the WNBA. "The players in the WNBA need to realize that Caitlyn Clark is helping all of them, now and in the long run. Caitlyn is the tide that will raise all boats!" Navratilova wrote on X. Navratilova also spoke out against Angel Reese's approval of Chennedy Carter's brutal tackle of Clark during the game. "This is not ok," Navratilova wrote in response to a video showing the attack and Reese's reaction. 

As for Clark's meteoric rise and her growing popularity as a pro athlete, Taylor McCabe, Clark's former teammate with the Iowa Hawkeyes, was not in the least surprised as revealed in an interview with The New York Times. "[Her] face is plastered on everything."