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LeBron James credits Fever’s Caitlin Clark with WNBA growth amid heavy scrutiny

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Greatness recognizes greatness, and LeBron James recognizes the talent that WNBA first overall pick Caitlin Clark has. He also knows what impact it will have on the league’s potential growth.   

The Los Angeles Lakers star didn’t miss a beat in addressing Clark’s critics, as the former Hawkeyes star has been under heavy scrutiny as the Indiana Fever’s season got off to a rough start with four straight losses. 

Caitlin Clark looks up

Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever walks across the court in the first quarter against the New York Liberty at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on May 16, 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

“It’s still a team game, people,” James said on his podcast “Mind the Game” with J.J. Redick. 

“People need to realize, the Indiana Fever — this is the second year in a row they had the No. 1 pick. Do y’all know what that means? That means they’re not that good.” 

“I’m rooting for Caitlin because I’ve been in that seat before. I’ve walked that road before. I hope she kills. I hope Aliyah Boston does amazing. I hope they do great.” 

James explained that he understands the situation from both his experiences as a rookie and now with his son, Bronny James, who is the presumed No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft.

LeBron James dunks

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James dunks during the second half in Game 4 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets Saturday, April 27, 2024, in Los Angeles.  (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

CAITLIN CLARK BRUSHES OFF WNBA STAR’S RACE REMARK, SAYS MORE ‘OPPORTUNITIES’ WILL HELP ELEVATE WOMEN’S GAME

“I’m getting the same thing from watching my son, who is a 19-year-old, getting a lot of animosity and hatred towards him when he’s just a kid trying to live out his dream. There’s a very small number of men and women that actually get to live out their dream of playing the professional sport, and we have grown a– men and women out here doing whatever they can to make sure that doesn’t happen.” 

“I’m glad that Caitlin has a great head on her shoulders.”

James also credited Clark with having a massive impact on the WNBA, despite her recent arrival.  

Caitlin Clark yells on court

Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark (22) reacts after scoring a 3-point basket during the second half of an WNBA basketball game against the Connecticut Sun, Monday, May 20, 2024, at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. (IMAGN)

“The one thing that I love that she’s bringing to her sport: more people want to watch. More people want to tune in. I saw, for the first time, they had a chartered plane. For the first time in their league history, they flew private. That should be celebrated in its own right,” he said.

“That should be celebrated, and it’s because of Caitlin Clark. Don’t get it twisted. Don’t get it f—ed up. Caitlin Clark is the reason why a lot of great things are going to happen for the WNBA.”

Women’s viewership on both the collegiate and professional level have seen massive spikes in part because of Clark’s popularity. 

Last year, the WNBA spent $4 million on charter flights for the playoffs and any back-to-back games during the regular season. Ahead of the draft last month, Commissioner Cathy Engelbert confirmed the league would do the same this season. 

But this month, the league announced a $50 million plan to provide full-time charter flight service for its teams the next two seasons.

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