Excitement for Chicago Sky draft picks Kamilla Cardoso and Angel Reese comes amid conversations about Caitlin Clark’s salary and WNBA pay disparity.

CHICAGO (WLS) — There’s excitement as a stellar class of female basketball phenoms get set to join the WNBA.

The super-talented group helped women’s college basketball achieve new heights.

Chicago Sky: Salaries for WNBA draft picks Kamilla Cardoso, Angel Reese, Caitlin Clark renew conversations about pay disparity - ABC7 Chicago

For the first time ever, the women’s final March Madness game drew more than 18 million viewers, surpassing the viewership of the men’s final game.

“We are experiencing a transformational moment in sports that we may not experience for generations,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “Support for the WNBA is continuing to grow.”

There’s also been renewed attention on the pay disparities that exist between the WNBA and the NBA.

Rookie superstars like Caitlin Clark, Kamila Cardoso and Rickea Jackson are all estimated to make an average of $76,535 for their salaries this season, according to SPOTRAC, an online system for team payrolls and player contracts.

That number is a long way from last year’s top-three picks in the NBA rookie class, who averaged roughly $10 million a year in salary.

Bears players react to the Chicago Sky's loaded 2024 WNBA Draft class

Noah Henderson, a professor at Loyola University’s Quinlan School of Business, said the pay for professional athletes is derived from revenue brought in by the league’s media deals and viewership, meaning the more viewers the broadcast gets, there is potential for more money generated.

He said 2.5 million people viewed the WNBA draft which is five times more than last year.

“If that’s any indication about future games and broadcast, there’s going to be a lot more people tuning into the WNBA, which will soon translate into higher media deals and higher salaries,” Henderson said.

Pundits also note a major source of pay inequity between the WNBA and NBA also stems from the collective bargaining agreements the players unions have with the two leagues about the amount of revenue they get to share.

While Clark and other high-profile players, like Sky draft picks Kamilla Cardoso and Angel Reese, stand to make millions in endorsement deals, many others in the league supplement their salaries by playing overseas in the off-season.

The anticipated WNBA season is also driving up ticket prices for teams.

Ticket prices for an upcoming game between the Chicago Sky and the Indiana Fever, who signed Clark from the University of Iowa, have more than tripled in cost.

“All the excitement is huge for the city of Chicago, for women’s basketball, and is great for Chicago sports fans,” Sitclose ticket broker owner Steve Buzil said.

Most fans agree that what’s good for women’s college basketball and the WNBA is good for everyone. With more televised games, the historically overlooked sport is not being overlooked anymore.

“In this city, there’s many teams that seem like they are not trying to win, so if you can get some stars in here and some teams that want to win, it should be a lot of fun,” said Chris Bleck with ESPN 1000 Chicago.