Iowa women’s basketball will retire Caitlin Clark’s No. 22

Caitlin Clark got a final chance to say goodbye to Iowa fans on Wednesday, and of course there was a big crowd waiting.

Caitlin Clark: Iowa women's basketball will retire the No. 22 jersey

Clark, who became major college basketball’s all-time leading scorer this season on the way to being the consensus national player of the year, was honored along with her teammates in a celebration at Iowa’s home arena commemorating the Hawkeyes’ second consecutive national runner-up finish in the NCAA Tournament.

“I would say you’ve all inspired me as much as I inspired you,” Clark said to the approximately 8,000 fans at Iowa’s Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “And you allowed me to live out my dream every single day, and for that, I’m very thankful. It’s been very special, and this place will always be home to me.”

Caitlin Clark: Iowa Hawkeyes to retire No. 22 jersey | CNN

Clark received a standing ovation when Iowa athletics director Beth Goetz announced that Clark’s No. 22 jersey will be retired, the third number to be retired in program history.

“I think they like you,” Goetz said to Clark after the announcement.

“It’s super incredible, something I’m very thankful for,” Clark said. “There’s been a lot of good 22s who have come before me and played for this program, whether it was Kathleen Doyle or Sam Logic. That number holds a lot of weight, far beyond me. I’m really grateful, and it will be a special day when it happens.”

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Iowa coach Lisa Bluder called the Hawkeyes’ back-to-back runs to the national championship game “special.”

“This year’s was also special because nobody thought we could do it,” she said. “Nobody thought we could repeat what we did last year, except these women up here.”

The attendance for the event wasn’t surprising given the Hawkeyes’ ability to draw big crowds this season.

The Hawkeyes sold out every home game, drawing 238,620 fans during the regular season, and that total doesn’t include the 55,646 fans who showed up for the “Crossover at Kinnick” outdoor exhibition game in October at Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium that set the women’s basketball single-game attendance record.

Iowa also sold out its two NCAA tournament games — the weekend attendance of 28,764 was the most of any first-weekend site in the women’s tournament.

“Please come back next year,” Bluder said. “Please fill Carver-Hawkeye Arena next year.”

Fans were lined up outside of the arena more than two hours before the event started, racing to find seats when the doors opened.

Iowa’s announcement comes just a day after the all-time leading scorer won the John R. Wooden Award for the second straight year as the nation’s top women’s college basketball player.

After leading her team to back-to-back national title game berths, multiple Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles, and more, her career has prompted a debate about whether she is the GOAT of women’s basketball.

Clark finished with 3,951 career points, which shattered the all-time NCAA Division I scoring mark for both men’s and women’s basketball and also drew huge numbers in viewership, ticket sales, and attention to the sport.

The unprecedented amount of coverage on the sport and her collegiate career is already set to follow her into the WNBA, where she is predicted to be drafted by the Indiana Fever as the No. 1 pick. The league announced on Wednesday plans to broadcast 36 of the Fever’s 40 games on national networks and streaming partners.

While the end of Clark’s collegiate career was bittersweet after falling in the NCAA title game for the second year in a row, her jersey will forever hang in the rafters as a reminder of her monumental impact on the game of women’s basketball.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.