Caitlin Clark, the Tiger Woods of women's basketball, changes everything for Indiana, WNBA

INDIANAPOLIS – Caitlin Clark is coming to Indianapolis this summer because she’s turning pro and will be drafted No. 1 overall in April by the WNBA’s Indiana Fever, and if you have no idea what that means – if you have no idea how important this is for the city – let me tell you the last time something like this happened:

It was March 16, 2023, when the Colts signed free-agent Gardner Minshew as their backup quarterback. Remember that? Remember what I wrote? Probably not, and it’s OK, but I wrote this, and I wrote it exactly like this:

Stay calm, but signing Gardner Minshew MEANS ANTHONY RICHARDSON IS NEXT.

Nope, the caps-lock button didn’t get stuck. That was me, shouting joyously at the obvious implication of Minshew’s signing six weeks before the 2023 NFL draft: The Colts wanted the best backup QB on the market, because they were going to roll the dice with the No. 4 overall pick on the incredibly talented but incredibly raw Richardson.


Well, I was. And you have. And you do.

Caitlin Clark leaving Iowa with one year of eligibility to enter the 2024 WNBA draft? The year the Indiana Fever has the No. 1 overall pick?


Well, it is.

And yes, I’m aware the Fever won the 2012 WNBA title. Can I ask you a question? What happened … next? Now let’s talk about Caitlin Clark, playing the next decade in downtown Indianapolis. Any idea what’s going to happen next?

What Caitlin Clark means to women's sports

Caitlin Clark changes everything.

She’s not just the best women’s basketball player in NCAA history, though she is. She’s not just the most prolific scorer in college basketball history, male or female, though she will be Sunday after she scores her 18th point to move ahead of former LSU star Pete Maravich’s record of 3,667 points.

She’s the biggest individual draw in women’s sports.


Now, we could quibble over gymnast Simone Biles, but that’s about it. Caitlin Clark is the Tiger Woods of women’s basketball. She’s the Serena Williams of her sport. You think these comparisons are getting messy? Watch this:

She’s the Lionel Messi of women’s basketball.

OPINION: Caitlin Clark's scoring record doesn't matter. She's bigger than any number.

And I mean, at any level of her sport. Is she the best women's basketball player in the world, right now? That one, I cannot say. But I hope you realize what that last sentence means. I’m willing to concede what I don’t know, but absolutely confident in what I do believe: She’s the best female college player ever, and the most important player in the history of women’s basketball.

That’s a lot, I know, but are you aware of the impact this one person has had? Here’s one way to look at it: The Iowa women’s basketball team has played 28 games this season and has sold every ticket available or broken the arena’s attendance record – or both – in 26 of those games. The only two games Iowa failed to record a sellout or an arena record were at the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Florida. And that was Thanksgiving weekend.

Caitlin Clark isn’t bigger than Thanksgiving. Not yet anyway.

MORE: Complete guide to Caitlin Clark's basketball career

That’s her significance to the sport. Is Breanna Stewart better? Maybe. Probably. Does Breanna Stewart sell out every arena she plays? No. And please, no offense intended for Breanna Stewart. She’s amazing and popular and significant and all of that. But it’s kind of like being Phil Mickelson or Sergio Garcia in golf a decade ago:

You’re good. No, you’re great. You’re just not Tiger.


Now, let’s clean up another mess I might have made earlier. No, not the Messi comparison. That one’s clean. Caitlin Clark is that good, that popular, that charismatic. She’s a combination of Steph Curry and Maravich, someone who will go down in history as the best shooter her sport’s ever seen (trust me) and also its most prolific scorer.

But we need to discuss the Fever, and what this day means for them.

What Caitlin Clark means to the Indiana Fever

The Indiana Fever won the 2012 WNBA title. That was huge news, the biggest day in franchise history, an honor it has held until … checks wristwatch … Feb. 29, 2024.

And how appropriate, how utterly cool, that we learned Caitlin Clark was headed this way on Leap Day, a day that happens once every four years. Because this is that kind of special, the kind of good news a sports franchise doesn’t get every year. Some franchises don’t get a day like this, ever.

OPINION: Clark changed women's college game. Will she do the same for the WNBA?

Here’s another comparison: Today is as big for the Indiana Fever as May 16, 2023, was for the San Antonio Spurs. What happened May 16, 2023? The Spurs won the 2024 NBA draft lottery, and the right to draft Victor Wembanyama. He’s a generational talent and the biggest draw in the sport.

Caitlin checks those boxes. Now listen, we all know the WNBA isn’t as big as the NBA. Am I saying the Fever will become as popular here as the Spurs in San Antonio? No, for a few reasons. One, the Spurs were the NBA’s dominant franchise for more than a decade not long ago. The Spurs are a legacy franchise, and anyway, you don’t have to be a social scientist – or a sexist pig – to acknowledge the gap in popularity of the NBA and the WNBA.

But Caitlin Clark is going to help the Fever, and the WNBA, bridge that gap. She’s doing it right now in college basketball, with the women’s game on national television more and women’s games making it into the highlights every day on ESPN. Clark didn’t do that on her own, no. The Tennessee women got this ball rolling decades ago, and then UConn took the baton and took off, and now LSU and South Carolina are national names.

Put it this way: I know who coaches the LSU and South Carolina women: Kim Mulkey and Dawn Staley. Hand to Bible, I’m not sure who coaches the LSU or South Carolina men. I think Mike Boynton coaches the Gamecocks, but if I’m wrong, I’m asking my boss to leave this sentence as-is, to prove my point:

Certain women’s basketball programs are more important, or at least more notable, than their male counterparts.

And while Clark had nothing to do with the success at Tennessee or UConn, or at LSU or South Carolina, she has stood on the shoulders of that greatness and taken the women’s game to new heights.

Now she’s coming to Indianapolis, where the Fever’s regular-season schedule runs from May 14-Sept. 19. Those are some lean months for downtown, most of that time after the Pacers are done but before the Colts get started. The Triple-A baseball team is in town, and that’s awesome, but those fans tend to stay on the western side of downtown, near Victory Field.

Gainbridge Fieldhouse is smack-dab in the middle of downtown, and the place will fill up throughout the summer. Iowa fans will make it happen until the locals figure out what’s happening and start gobbling up tickets.

Again, the Fever won the 2012 title and the Caitlin Clark news doesn’t match that, on the court. I mean, obviously. She hasn’t even played a game. But off the court, where the money is made, this is no comparison. Put it like this: Average attendance for Fever games in 2012, when they were the best team in the WNBA, was about 7,500. By 2018 it was down to 6,000.

When Caitlin Clark and Iowa played DePaul on Oct. 15 at Kinnick Stadium, Iowa’s football stadium, a crowd of 55,646 attended. No typos in that last sentence.

The Fever are about to get back to the business of winning games and competing for WNBA titles. Ready for takeoff, Fever? Good, because downtown Indianapolis is coming with you.

Find IndyStar columnist Gregg Doyel on Twitter at @GreggDoyelStar or at

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Indiana Fever got the best news ever with Caitlin Clark entering draft