Is Caitlin Clark behind WNBA's new popularity? Angel Reese says it's more than 'just one person'

Chicago Sky rookie Angel Reese had a statement game Thursday against the New York Liberty, contributing 13 points and nine rebounds to her team’s 90-81 win and going viral during the game for picking the pocket of reigning WNBA MVP Brenna Stewart.

After the game, Reese took to the social media platform X to make a different kind of statement.

“And that’s on getting a WIN in a packed [arena] not just cause of one player on our charter flight. #SKYTOWN,” the former Louisiana State star wrote after her team improved to 2-1 while dropping New York to 4-1.

The since-deleted post seems to be a commentary on the notion that WNBA rookie Caitlin Clark of the Indiana Fever alone deserves the credit for the recent surge in popularity of women’s basketball and for the WNBA’s decision to use league-wide charter flights for the first time this season.

That idea came up on Wednesday’s episode of LeBron James and JJ Redick‘s “Mind the Game” podcast.

“I don’t want to call it hatred, but there’s definitely, like, a dislike or a vitriol coming her way [from] other players,” Redick said of Clark.

James said: “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 that they had a chartered plane, for the first time in their league history they flew private. That should be celebrated in its own right. For anyone in sports that’s flown commercial or flown charter, 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 is gonna happen for the WNBA.”

On TNT’s coverage of the NBA’s Western Conference finals Wednesday night, Charles Barkley said James was “100% right” with his comments and called out WNBA players who are acting “petty” toward Clark.

“Y’all should be thanking that girl for getting y’all … private charters, all the money and visibility she’s bringing to the WNBA,” Barkley said. “Don’t be petty like dudes. Listen, what she’s accomplished, give her her flowers.”

Before her game Thursday, Reese talked to reporters about the idea that “just one person” is responsible for the current success of the WNBA and listed a number of players — herself and fellow Sky rookie Kamilla Cardoso and Sparks rookies Cameron Brink and Rickea Jackson — who are also having a positive impact on the women’s game.

“It’s not just one person, I think people don’t realize that [because] the narrative out there is that just one person changing the game. It’s a lot of us — me, Kamilla, there’s Cameron, Rickea. There’s so many great players and it’s been long overdue and just being able to see that our impact has been able to change the game.

“I love it for us all and we’re just going to continue to keep going.”

In her post, Reese mentioned the packed arena for the Sky-Liberty game. There was definitely a large crowd of more than 12,000 fans at Barclays Center that night, but it should be noted that more than 17,700 were there May 18 when the Liberty hosted Clark and the Fever.

“WNBA getting packed arenas is amazing to see ! let’s just talk about that!” former NBA star Dwight Howard wrote in response to Reese’s now-deleted post.

Reese is averaging 12 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists. The WNBA noted on X that she is only the third WNBA player to have 15 or more offensive rebounds after just three games, joining Natilie Williams and Yolanda Griffith, both of whom were rookies in 1999.

Clark is averaging 17.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists for the 0-5 Fever, who play the Sparks on Friday night at Arena.

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