Jim Gazzolo column: No Clark is missed slam dunk

Published 9:00 am Thursday, June 13, 2024

Caitlin Clark isn’t one of the best dozen women’s basketball players in America, that is for sure.

She is, however, the most famous one in the world right now, thus the dilemma.

Clark’s résumé doesn’t warrant a spot on the Olympic team this summer in Paris. But one can argue that has never mattered before, so why now?

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This is all about business, which is what makes those against Clark’s addition to the team seem more than a little hypocritical.

For years the women of the WNBA have complained about the lack of attention and media coverage they have received. They also wanted better pay, calling for it. They claim its about business.

Now, when they have a chance to continue to improve their brand and attention, they are saying it is about the sport. They don’t want to admit Clark is big business.

Former LSU star Angel Reese says there is more to the league’s spike in attendance than simply Clark. Meanwhile, Reese’s Chicago Sky can’t sell out their home arena of 10,000 or so seats.

Meanwhile, Clark’s Indiana Fever plays in front of sellouts every night despite just three wins. You can’t force people to like something or not, no matter how hard you try.

The market is what the public decides. We all learned that in high school economics classes. It’s the basis of supply and demand.

If you don’t think Clark is the biggest name in the women’s game, all you have to do is listen to any news conference. She is the topic of conversion whether playing or not.

So why would the U.S. Women’s Committee not give her a spot in the club?

Some say it’s jealousy or they want to put the rookie in her place.

They are even trying to sell us on the fact it’s about the best 12 who deserve the spots. They are missing the bigger picture.

The Americans are going to win the gold whether Clark plays or not, but most folks can’t name five players on the team either way.

Putting the best players on the team has never been the fact of these dream teams in the past either.

Remember the original 1992 men’s squad with Michael Jordan? Isiah Thomas was left off that team.

If that’s not enough, why were Larry Bird and Magic Johnson on the squad?

Bird was injured and well past his prime. He was no longer one of the best dozen men’s players in America. Johnson was retired from the league yet he was given a roster spot.

And Christian Laettner, he was a college guy who didn’t belong either.

Nobody complained about Johnson or Bird being on the club and the team wouldn’t

have been the same without them. They were there as much for marketing and expanding the NBA brand as winning any medals.

Nobody out there believes more people will be watching these games, which won’t be close for the most part, if Clark isn’t on TV playing.

If you wonder why the WNBA has struggled for so many years this is a great example. You have to give the public what it wants, and what the public clearly is telling women’s basketball officials it wants Clark.

This opportunity won’t last forever. They need to put egos aside and do what is best for the good of the game.

Then again, that would make too much sense.

If NBC is smart, it will invite Clark to Paris and have her comment on the women’s games. Maybe that will get some television numbers.

Otherwise, it will be a missed opportunity for all.

Jim Gazzolo is a freelance writer who covers McNeese State athletics for the American Press. Email him at jimgazzolo@yahoo.com