Fever's Caitlin Clark already making impact on WNBA

Apr. 18—INDIANAPOLIS — Caitlin Clark has yet to take her first practice shot in an Indiana Fever uniform, but she's already had a significant impact on the WNBA.

On Thursday, the Washington Mystics announced they will move their June 7 home game against the Fever from the 4,200-seat Entertainment & Sports Arena to 20,000-seat Capital One Arena because of "unprecedented demand."

That follows a similar move by the reigning champion Las Vegas Aces, who announced two weeks ago they will move their July 2 game against Indiana from 12,000-seat Michelob Ultra Arena — where they have sold out their entire season-ticket allotment, a first for a league franchise — to 18,000-seat T-Mobile Arena.

Fans in Chicago are petitioning the Sky to move June 23 and Aug. 30 dates against the Fever from 10,387-seat Wintrust Arena to the 23,500-seat United Center.

That's one-quarter of the league either already executing moves because of ticket demand or being strongly urged to do so.

The regular season still is a month away.

That's just a glimpse at the kind of pressure being placed on the 22-year-old Indiana point guard, who was the No. 1 overall pick in Monday's WNBA Draft.

"I certainly know there's pressure there, and that's what it's been like my entire career, but for me I just have fun playing basketball," Clark said. "I know this is a team sport. It's not all about me. It's not everything I have to do. And when I've been able to understand that, that's allowed me to play my best, I think.

"I think just using your resources, asking questions, knowing that everything's not going to be perfect and giving myself a little grace. I think that, too — I'm definitely a perfectionist, but I'm at my best when I allow myself to have a little grace and not expect everything to go exactly how it should. But, at the same time, that's what allowed me to be so great."

That greatness is increasingly unprecedented.

After playing in the three highest rated women's basketball games of all time to end her college career at Iowa, Clark was a part of the highest rated WNBA Draft broadcast of all time.

She's about to make more history off the court as well, with The Athletic reporting her new sponsorship deal with Nike could be worth more than $20 million. It will include a signature shoe, making Clark just the third current WNBA player to earn that honor.

There's a mural on the west side of Indianapolis of her likeness, and her No. 22 jersey went on sale within minutes of the Fever completing her selection.

She's entering elite territory as a pop cultural icon along the likes of Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods — two of Nike's most famous marketing success stories.

Among female athletes, she has no peer in the modern era.

"We've never ever, ever seen anything like this," ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo, herself a member of the National Basketball Hall of Fame, said during a video conference call prior to the draft. "We've had great players coming into the league. People were excited. 'What's Brittney Griner gonna look like in the WNBA? What's Diana Taurasi gonna look like?' We've had that. Never anything close to this."

Clark appears uniquely qualified to handle the hype.

All of Iowa's home games were sold out during her senior season, and she played in front of more than 56,000 fans at Kinnick Stadium — the home of the Hawkeyes' football team — during an exhibition game in October.

She was the face of women's college basketball the past two seasons, leading Iowa to the national championship game in back-to-back years after a 30-year absence from the Final Four.

For all the impact Clark already is making off the court, her focus remains on the floor at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

Indiana doubled its win total from 2022 with a 13-27 finish in its first season under coach Christie Sides last year. But the Fever haven't qualified for the postseason since 2016.

"I think the biggest thing is we want to get back to the playoffs," Clark said of her goals for her rookie season. "I think that's the biggest thing, win a lot of basketball games. I think, for myself, continue to be me, have a lot of fun, give myself grace, I think everything else takes care of itself when you just go about your business like that.

"But I really hope to help this organization win a lot. I feel like that's just something I've been able to do at every single level I've played at, so I think that's the biggest goal for every single person in this room."