Caitlin Clark Vs Angel Reese WNBA Rematch Sets an Eye-Popping Record Before It Even Tips Off


CORRECTION, June 24, 2024: Larry Bird played basketball at Indiana State. An earlier version of this article named a different university.

Given how large it is now, people tend to forget just how unimportant the NBA was in the ’70s.

Attendance was sagging, interest was dwindling, and things were bad enough that NBA playoff games — ostensibly the most important games of the season — were being put on tape delay.

That all began to change toward the end of that decade, when Larry Joe Bird was drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1978 and Earvin “Magic” Johnson was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1979.

The rise of Bird and Johnson helped re-invigorate the NBA (and did so until some guy named Michael Jordan took the league by storm in the ’90s) from the doldrums of the “tape delay era.”

How did Bird and Johnson accomplish this? They had a built-in rivalry dating back to their college days, when Bird’s Indiana State team clashed with Johnson’s Michigan State.

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Oh, and whether anyone liked it or not, there was a tinge of racial animus, due to the simple fact that Bird is white and Johnson is black.

A racially charged rivalry dating back to college helping a basketball league reach new heights.

Sound familiar?

Yes, it is far too early (and probably a tad disrespectful to a pair of Hall of Fame basketball players) to truly compare Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark and Chicago Sky forward Angel Reese to Bird and Johnson … but the early signs are there.

Do you have any interest in the WNBA these days?

According to a CNN analysis, a Sunday matinee rematch between the Fever and Sky (Indiana won the first two games against the Sky: 70-71 on June 1 and 91-83 on June 16) is drawing record interest — literally.

Tickets for the game are going for as much as $9,000, which is literally and figuratively unheard of for a WNBA game.

But while that $9,000 figure obviously represents an extreme, the more “average” ticket prices are plenty eye-watering on their own, especially in this economy.

Per CNN, tickets for the game were going for “around $253 — 187 percent higher than the Sky’s average purchase price of $88.”

Given those prices, it should come as little surprise that the Clark-Reese rivalry also does rather well on traditional cable.

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As The Athletic noted, the June 16 tilt between Clark and Reese was the most-watched WNBA game in over two decades.

Even beyond the X’s and O’s, Clark and Reese have largely transcended the WNBA, as the rivalry between the two — and all those in their orbit — have become everyday discussion points.

Everyone (seriously) has some sort of an opinion on the two, and that sort of mind share has been an absolute boon for the WNBA.

Given its struggle for relevancy, the WNBA will likely try to commodify and capitalize on this simmering feud.

And as long as Clark and Reese are playing and drawing interest, the WNBA has a very good shot at being more than just the NBA’s failing side project.

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Bryan Chai has written news and sports for The Western Journal for more than five years and has produced more than 1,300 stories. He specializes in the NBA and NFL as well as politics.
Bryan Chai has written news and sports for The Western Journal for more than five years and has produced more than 1,300 stories. He specializes in the NBA and NFL as well as politics. He graduated with a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. He is an avid fan of sports, video games, politics and debate.
Class of 2010 University of Arizona. BEAR DOWN.
Phoenix, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, Korean
Topics of Expertise
Sports, Entertainment, Science/Tech