Caitlin Clark Is DESTROYING WNBA Players


If there’s been a downside to the WNBA’s influx of new fans, it’s the phenomenon best described as Caitlin Clark derangement syndrome. And it needs to stop.

Aliyah Boston was looking forward to her second professional season.

The 2023 WNBA Rookie of the Year was coming off a successful debut as a television analyst for ESPN at the NCAA Women’s Final Four in April, one made even sweeter by seeing her beloved alma mater, South Carolina, win the national championship after an undefeated season. The delightful approbation given to Boston from her college and national team head coach Dawn Staley showed how beloved both are within basketball. And after witnessing the Gamecocks cut down the nets by getting revenge on Caitlin Clark’s Iowa – the team who had ended her collegiate career a year before – Boston knew she’d soon be playing alongside Clark, with her WNBA team, the Indiana Fever, set to take the 22-year-old with the No 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft.

Fast forward to now. Clark and Boston are indeed teammates but the Fever started their season with five straight losses, before Friday’s narrow win over the Los Angeles Sparks raised the team’s spirits a little. But an even more important, unfortunate storyline has emerged around the team. ESPN’s Holly Rowe revealed, before the Fever’s second regular season game against the Connecticut Sun, that Boston said she has deleted X from her phone and that TikTok is the only social media platform she now feels safe on. And the reason is the disturbing, toxic backlash she and other WNBA players have received from Clark’s wild fans.

Before we start, it’s important to note that this is not Clark’s fault – and she has not done anything to encourage the abuse of her fellow players. There is much to celebrate about Clark’s nascent superstardom and arrival in the world’s best women’s basketball league. Her historic impact on the college game, which led to the highest TV ratings the NCAA women’s Tournament has ever had, appears to be carrying over to the WNBA. Attendance and TV audience numbers for Clark’s preseason and regular-season debuts with the Fever reached zeniths for the 28-year-old league. Although its players had long fought for charter flights in their collective bargaining agreement talks, Clark being at the center of the W’s newfound popularity has undeniably help usher in that long-awaited change. Hell, Clark’s shoe deal with Nike may have led to the best player in league, A’Ja Wilson, finally getting her own signature shoe.

So, Clark has been a good thing for the league and women’s basketball as a whole. Some of her hardcore fans? Not so much.

Some of the tension originated from the matchup between Clark and Angel Reese in the 2023 NCAA title game. Reese’s boisterous personality was attacked by Clark fans at the same time as they praised their own heroine’s cockiness as “competitiveness”.

And a subset of Clark’s fervent fans have become fully unbearable.

Anywhere one turns on social media, Clark fans are blaming the Fever’s early-season struggles – which had been expected – on everyone but her. Disparaging comments about Boston’s weight and game, the rest of Clark’s Fever teammates and calls for head coach Christie Sides to get fired are constant. Yet those same Clark fans don’t demand accountability from the point guard when it comes to her setting a WNBA debut-record 10 turnovers, her below average defensive play and her zest for perimeter shooting, something she had free rein to do at Iowa but needs to scale back until she improves her consistency at the WNBA level. Clark’s occasional volatile temper, which earned her a rare technical foul last Monday night, is glossed over by her rabid supporters who treat her as an infallible celebrity instead of a still-developing professional player.

Added to this, many Clark fans have never been WNBA fans, and show a significant level of ignorance by not respecting the league’s quarter-century history of producing great athletes. The arrogance of pretending that Clark is the sole reason for any interest in the WNBA, or the high level of play it has long possessed, or believing that her fellow professionals are envious of her, are traits her ardent supporters must rid themselves of. That will not be an easy task though, thanks to NBA legends LeBron James and Charles Barkley only enabling the fans’ childish antics.

On the latest episode of his Mind The Game podcast with JJ Redick, James said that Clark “is the reason why a lot of great things are going to happen in the WNBA”. The Lakers forward even Clark’s early-season struggles to his son Bronny’s NBA draft process, claiming that both are getting “a lot of hatred and animosity”.

Barkley’s take was even more dreadful, as the Inside the NBA luminary claimed that her WNBA counterparts were being “petty” to Clark.

“LeBron, you are 100% right on, these girls hating on Caitlin Clark,” Barkley rambled. “I expect men to be petty because we’re the most insecure group in the world. Y’all should be thanking that girl for giving y’all ass private charters, all the money and visibility she is bringing to the WNBA. Don’t be petty like dudes. What she has accomplished, give her, her followers.”

James and Barkley failed to cite specifically who has been giving hate to Clark, exemplifying how counterproductive their surface-level takes are to an honest conversation around Clark, whose stumbles are entirely understandable for a player in their rookie season. And though James gave a shout out to Boston, he did not mention how awful some of Clark’s rambunctious loyalists have been to the forward. His apparent ignorance of that makes his comments all the more dreary.

Barkley meanwhile shows why Clark’s toxic fans and casual WNBA followers need to educate themselves about the league. The coddling of the talented Clark has been insulting and offensive to the great women of the W who have, despite all the misogynist, racist and homophobic attacks they’ve faced, carried the league to sustainability before her arrival. They aren’t going to just make it an open lay-up line and three-point shooting contest for Clark, something no one would expect any other league, male or female, to do. And the first person to admit that would be Clark herself.

Hopefully Clark’s more toxic fans can change before things get really ugly, something that would be unfortunate in what is supposed to be a golden period in women’s basketball. A period in which Clark, Boston and all who love the WNBA should be able to celebrate instead of squirm.