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When your debut game brings the highest viewership for WNBA in 23 years, being ignored still will surely raise questions. This is what is happening as the Caitlin Clark Olympics snub has left the basketball community divided. While some question her eligibility as a rookie, some like Paul Pierce and Shannon Sharpe have questioned the WNBA’s intent itself.

There is no denying the Fever rookie carries a significant popularity in the present scenario and everything associated with her sells. In such circumstances, it’s beyond Paul Pierce why Clark is not on the roster, especially when women’s basketball needs growth. “I know she’s a rookie… The thing that bothers me the most. You claim you want the women’s game to grow, and then you keep the most popular girl in women’s basketball off the team. Now, how do you grow internationally and domestically if you don’t put her on the US team?” he said on ‘Undisputed Live’.

The former Boston Celtics star believes there are times when certain things are bigger than the game. And with women’s basketball at an all-time high, this is one of those instances, he stated. Pierce perceives this as a missed opportunity that could have impacted the salaries, accommodations, and other things in the Women’s league. “I think the USA and Women’s basketball dropped the ball on this one,” he said. Considering Clark attracted 2.1 million viewers on average across platforms on her debut game itself, Pierce may have a point there.

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Former NFL star Shannon Sharpe also seems to share Paul Pierce’s point of view. He questioned, “Are we really trying to grow the game?” Appearing on First Take, Sharpe agreed on the league having accomplished players like Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson. But he emphasized that it’s Clark who can actually help grow the game. “Because this is the most popular women’s basketball player in the world, and it ain’t close,” he said. He backed his argument that no other WNBA star has made a shift to the NBA arena but Clark.

Caitlin Clark looks beyond impact

The 22-year-old gained popularity from her college days, recording the highest viewed ever NCAA basketball game in either category. Further in the league, she helped Fever set 5 of the 6 viewership records across 6 different platforms.

Notably, her first game in the Fever jersey became the most-watched WNBA game ever broadcast on ESPN. Additionally, she attracted 1.7 million viewers on ABC, making it network’s most-watched WNBA game ever. Apart from this, the Fever rookie has impacted the WNBA revenue as well. For the first time in WNBA history, New York Liberty become first team to have $2M+ in one-game ticket revenue – this during Clark’s debut game. The Fever also had sold out jerseys on Clark’s draft announcement.

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This only furthers Paul Pierce and Shannon Sharpe’s point of why Clark was not added to the Olympics roster. The current reported roster includes — Breanna Stewart, Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, Chelsea Gray, A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum, Napheesa Collier, Kahleah Cooper, Sabrina Ionescu, Jewell Loyd, Alyssa Thomas, and Jackie Young.

But the 22-year-old is only geared up for the opportunities ahead. “I know it’s the most competitive team in the world, and I know it could have gone either way of me being on the team or me not being on the team. I’m excited for them,” she said, further iterating that there were no disappointments, only excited and eager for the stage to come in the next four years.

Stay tuned for more such updates. And to follow what Shaq’s ex-agent, Leonard Armato, has to say about the Reese-Clark rivalry and more, watch this video.

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