WNBA, Women's Basketball

What Did Diana Taurasi Say About Caitlin Clark (And Was She Wrong)?

Caitlin Clark, the 2024 WNBA #1 overall pick and the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer, became the subject of a heated discussion after comments were made by Phoenix Mercury’s and WNBA’s Greatest Player Diana Taurasi during the Women’s NCAA Tournament Final Four.

Were Taurasi’s remarks really that far off or controversial?  We don’t think so. The online reactions to Taurasi’s comments reek of ignorance, misogyny with a dash of homophobia.

What Did Diana Taurasi Say About Clark?

Let’s take a deeper look at the comments. During an interview with SportsCenter’s Scott Van Pelt in early April 2024, Taurasi answered a question from SVP regarding Clark’s transition to the WNBA. Here’s exactly how ESPN’s Van Pelt asked the question:

“Kamila’s coming, Caitlin’s coming, there’s more than just that that’s coming. What will the league have in store for them when they get there?”

And this is how Diana responded:

“Look, SVP, reality is coming. There are levels to this thing. And that’s just life. We all went through it. You see it on the NBA side, and you’re going to see it on this side. You look superhuman playing against 18-year-olds, but you’re going to [be playing against] some grown women that have been playing professional basketball for a long time.

This adjustment isn’t specific to the women’s game, as Diana said “You see it on the NBA side.” Think about it. If there was a dominant male player coming out of college and the media asked LeBron James or Luka Doncic or Kevin Durant how they thought that player would fare you can bet on the NBA that they would say something similar:

“There are levels to this thing. And that’s just life. We all went through it. You look superhuman playing against 18-year-olds, but you’re playing against grown men that have been playing professional basketball for a long time.

What was also conveniently ignored was that Taurasi’s comments didn’t stop there; she actually went on to praise Clark: “Not saying [Clark’s skills] are not gonna translate, because when you’re great at what you do, you’re just gonna get better. But there is gonna be a transition period where you’re gonna have to give yourself some grace as a rookie.”

It’s Not Hating: Stop Saying That.

Despite the practical (and true) nature of Taurasi’s comments, some Clark supporters perceived them as underestimating the former Iowa superstar. This perception sparked a debate about the nature of Taurasi’s remarks as her simply hating, or working against their own interests. While Clark has certainly boosted viewership and ticket sales, the popularity of women’s basketball was already meaningfully increasing prior to Clark’s explosion.

This narrative and perception that the WNBA and its players are “hating” on Caitlin Clark is completely off. The people saying that Taurasi, Breanna Stewart and others don’t want Cailtin Clark to succeed come from people that don’t know much about professional women’s basketball much less watched more than a game or two. And it shows.

The narrative is not only weird, but it’s wrong. It actually comes from this deeper ignorance and disdain for the WNBA prior to Caitlin Clark. These men (and they’re usually men) think that because they were personally impressed by Clark’s style of play already decided that she is better than Taurasi, Stewart, A’ja Wilson, Tamika Catchings, Kelsey Plum, Maya Moore (Clark’s idol), and any of the best WNBA players that came before Clark. That’s simply not true. Clark would tell you the same.

Fever Start Out 0-5: Was Taurasi Right? 

Of course Taurasi was right. Even if the Fever started out 5-0 and Clark averaged 20 points during that run, she’s not averaging 31.6 points as she did in college. The WNBA is the best of the best in the world; the same way the NBA is the best of the best. The professional leagues are always bigger, stronger, faster, and more talented. Rookie of the Year and generational player Victor Wembanyama took half a season to finally find his flow in the NBA, so why wouldn’t Clark?

In true Taurasi fashion, Diana addressed the backlash, clarifying that her comments were not meant to undermine Clark’s talent while taking a dig at the “new fans”

“The new fans are really sensitive these days and you can’t say anything. It’s kind of like when you go from kindergarten to first grade there’s a learning adjustment, when you go from high school to college there’s a learning adjustment. I don’t think I said anything that wasn’t factually correct. Like anything, greatness is going to translate and she’s proven that in every level and I don’t see that being any different in the WNBA.”

Taurasi emphasized the natural progression and learning curve that comes with moving to a higher level of competition, something every athlete experiences – male or female. While Clark is averaging 17.8 points and 5.8 assists, her Fever started out the season with five consecutive losses, proving out that there is going to be an adjustment period Taurasi pointed out.

At the end of the day, Caitlin Clark is going to have a spectacular season and will be a star in the league for years to come. A lot of Clark’s popularity is very much earned. It’s just going to take longer than all the internet commenters think.

As for Taurasi and Clark? It’ll be interesting to see when the two players meet when the Indiana Fever is scheduled to play against the Phoenix Mercury on June 30 at the Footprint Center in Phoenix.

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