The WNBA’s Real MVP A’ja Wilson Has A Back-To-Reality Message For Caitlin Clark and Her Fans 

While Caitlin Clark continues to get credit for elevating women’s basketball to another marketability realm, A’ja Wilson, the two-time WNBA champion, who also has won two of the last four league MVP awards, continues to do her work on and off the court to elevate the sport across the board, not just for one chosen player. 

Wilson doesn’t see Clark’s ascension or arrival into the WNBA as a threat to her position or stature. She lets the journalists, and the think piece writers address the fact that she doesn’t have a shoe deal like white players Clark, Sabrina Ionescu, Elena Della Donne or Breanna Stewart, who was the 2023 League MVP.  

In the meantime, Wilson recently spent her energy being a great ambassador for the sport, as she’s been since bringing Dawn Staley and South Carolina its first national championship in 2017 and then entering the WNBA as the first overall pick in 2018. 

Wilson has undoubtedly touched and inspired hundred of thousands of young aspiring ballers. 

WNBA Star A’ja Wilson Addressed Caitlin Clark Effect At TIME 100 Summit

Speaking at the 2024 TIME 100 Summit on Wednesday — alongside author, entrepreneur, activist a fellow Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad — Wilson said the impact that Clark has had on the sport and the attention her presence is inspiring — both positive and negative — has been “kind of amazing” to see.

Wilson is embracing the moment, not feeling overlooked or undervalued. Honestly, she says, she is just hoping “that this isn’t just a trend,” and that the rising interest in women’s hoops that made Cailtin Clark and Angel Reese jerseys sell out in a matter of hours, will carry over to the WNBA. 

“We see this a lot with young athletes,” the two-time MVP said. “Like, ‘Oh my god, we love her!’ And then the minute it kind of shifts or her path is a little rocky, all that goes away.”

Wilson is probably reflecting on her own path in a way. She is a leading face of the WNBA and the best player on the league’s latest dynasty. Her reputation around the league and across pro sports is solid. Her popularity with the casual fan is still a work in progress. 

Despite her legendary accomplishments, the average male sports fan never heard of A’ja Wilson and that’s a sad, but true, state of affairs. So, Wilson understands that eyes on Clark, mean eyes on all of the elite players in the league, especially when they meet for the first time in competition.

Wilson also understands how the entire league, including herself, can benefit from this moment. 

A’ja Wilson Hopes Caitlin Clark Effect Will Bring More Fans and Sponsors To WNBA

The 27-year-old five-time All-Star is hoping this current craze will create a sustainable growth and new fans of Clark, Reese, whoever, will stick around and pass their love for the game and the characters of the game down through the generations. 

Clark’s presence doesn’t take anything away from the Black women who have built the league.

“I hope that anyone who’s invested and pays attention to it, continues to invest in it,” Wilson said. “Buy that jersey. Go to that game. Take someone else. Put your money where your mouth is and invest in these women.”

When asked about the recent NIL craze, Wilson, who would have definitely been a million-dollar NIL baller in college if the new rules were in place when she played, also commented on the major bags top college athletes are raking in and how important it is for student-athletes to be able to leverage their personal brands. 

Two-time WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson (R) hopes that Caitlin Clark Effect (L) will elevate entire league, bringing sustained interest and more sponsors.

On the flip side, Wilson noted the potential dangers and damage that lucrative NIL deals in college could have on the pro league, where salaries currently don’t compare to what an elite college player can make collaborating with various brands. 

A’Ja Wilson Plays For The Honor Of Being One Of Just 144 WNBA Players In World

For that to not be a problem, Wilson says the $76,000 salary that Clark is pulling in will have to increase significantly as the league brings in more sponsors and investors. 

While people go crazy about money and branding deals, Wilson brings up a great point. The money is just one aspect of why she even plays the game. She always had a dream of going pro. Fringe fans can criticize the WNBA all they want, but there’s only 12 teams and 144 women in that league. It is one of the most competitive, selective and exclusive clubs in all of pro sports. 

You can’t buy that kind of respect, accolades or impact. 

“I feel like we saw that this year. A lot of people were like ‘Oh my god, why would you go pro when you’re making this much?'” Wilson said. “And it’s like, that’s the whole point. Hopefully those investors, those sponsors, can continue to help you grow at the next level.”

While Clark continues to drive the ship and be the wind that is blowing women’s basketball in an upward direction, it will take a collective effort by all of the superstars of the WNBA to continue to push the game, person by person, venue by venue and bucket by bucket.

Clark’s overnight success doesn’t mean sustained success for the WNBA. Wilson recognizes that and continues to represent the heart of the game and the glorious tradition of women’s hoops in this country. 

There’s no price tag on that.

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