Caitlin Clark Is Outplaying the Hype

Caitlin Clark is probably the best college basketball player I’ve ever seen. Admittedly, I’m too young for Lew Alcindor or Christian Laettner, a bit too jaded to give the crown to a one-and-done like Carmelo or Zion, and more smitten with Clark’s game than Candace Parker or Breanna Stewart’s. So I feel comfortable saying that nobody has grabbed my attention on the collegiate level in the same way that Clark has.

The remarkable thing about that, though, is that it was expected. The burden of expectation has squashed dozens of weaker-minded athletes before, whereas Clark seems to very obviously thrive on it. How else can you explain staring down the defending champion LSU Tigers—who were arguably more talented this year than last, when they beat Clark and her Iowa Hawkeyes in the national championship—and dropping 41 points, 12 assists, and the indelible image of the NCAA Tournament? That came when Clark splashed one of her nine threes of the night and caused helpless defender Hailey Van Lith to hit the What do y’all expect me to do with this? shrug. In the face of all the ad campaigns, all the digital ink that’s been spilled about Clark, it would have been totally understandable for her top-heavy Iowa team to flame out in the Elite Eight. Instead, Clark made her opponent completely break.

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When watching Clark, the only apt comparison that really springs to mind is Steph Curry—who, ahem, quite literally revolutionized basketball. Clark is a clear descendant of Curry in the sense that she fearlessly shoots from anywhere on the court when not dispersing assists through passing lanes that are only visible to her. It is both breathtaking and confounding. How does she keep doing this night after night?

And, with all due respect to Kate Martin, Gabbie Marshall, and the rest of Clark’s teammates, they aren’t on the same level as Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Steph had Hall of Famers to unload some of the weight, whereas Clark is carrying the entire state of Iowa on her shoulders. It’s astounding that (Kim Mulkey, do not read this) everyone knows Clark is the center of Iowa’s offensive universe and she’s still able to get her shit off. She is death, she is taxes, she is completely inevitable.

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