Youthful Impact

A couple of weeks ago, I suggested that the NBA needed to find a new “face of the league” because the old guard of Lebron James, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant were indeed getting old.  At least for the moment, the face of professional basketball in the US is in the WNBA and not the NBA; her name is Caitlin Clark.  She is the player who is most easily recognized in a crowd – – say at an airport – – and she is creating demand for her games.

Clark made her debut in a real WNBA game last night against the Connecticut Sun in Uncasville, CT, a village within the town of Montville, CT.  It is home to the Mohegan Sun casino and the WNBA team, and it sits about 90 miles from Boston and about 120 miles from NYC.  The Connecticut Sun play their home games in a 9000-seat arena and for last night’s opening game against Caitlin Clark and her Indiana Fever teammates:

  • The arena was sold out – – AND – –
  • Tickets on the secondary market were going for $700 apiece.
  • That was the Connecticut Sun’s first sellout in 20 years.

About a week ago, Clark and the Fever played their first WNBA Exhibition Game in Dallas against the Dallas Wings.  That Exhibition Game was also a sellout.  Tomorrow night, the Fever will play their first home game of the year and Clark’s inaugural game for the franchise.  The Fever’s home arena seats 18,000 fans; of course, it is sold out.  Moreover, if you want to get a seat on the secondary market, here are some options:

  • Courtside at floor level = $2,379
  • Lower-level side court Row 2 = $609
  • Nosebleed seats = $99 to $129

Folks, this is for a regular season WNBA game and the only reason this game has drawn this level of attention is Caitlin Clark.  For the moment, she is the face of basketball in the US of A.

Years ago, Nike did an ad with Mark McGwire, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux.  An attractive young woman pays no attention to the pitchers with McGwire on the scene blasting out batting practice moon shots leading to the observation that.

“Chicks dig the long ball.”

Well, Caitlin Clark also “digs the long ball” so to speak as she scores with 25–30-foot jump shots.  I would not be surprised if Nike came up with a reprise of that line incorporating Caitlin Clark in the ad.  Or perhaps a theme like:

  • Chicks dig the long ball – – Caitlin Clark sinks the long ball.

Moving on, but staying with basketball …  The Oklahoma City Thunder are the second youngest team in the NBA and they are demanding attention in the playoffs despite their youthful status.  The Thunder dispatched the Pelicans with a 4-0 sweep in Round 1 and are now tied 2-2 in the second round with the Dallas Mavericks. Their “Big 3” are all under 26 years old so it is reasonable to project that they still have room to grow their games, and they are starting from a good statistical place.  In the 2023/2024regular season:

  • The Thunder led the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage.
  • The Thunder led the NBA in turnovers forced on defense.
  • The Thunder led the NBA in shots blocked.
  • The Thunder finished second in point differential.
  • The Thunder finished tied for second in points allowed.

The only team younger than the Thunder is the Spurs.  The Thunder won 57 games last season and the Spurs won 22.

Switching gears …  The youthfulness of the Thunder reminded me of another “youngster” who burst onto the scene in a different sport.  I have said here before that the best hitter in baseball that I saw personally was Ted Williams and I recall that he made an instant impression on MLB upon his arrival.

Williams’ first season with the Red Sox was in 1939.  In his rookie season, he batted .327 and posted an OPS of 1.045 at the age of 20.  He led the league in total bases (344) and in RBIs (145).

In his second season, Williams batted .344 and posted an OPS of 1.036.  He led the league in runs scored (134) and in on-base percentage (.442).

His third season was 1941.  All he did that year was to hit .406 with an OPS of 1.287.  Those stats were not all singles; Williams led MLB that year in homeruns (37).

His fourth season, he hit “only” .356 and led MLB in runs scored (141), homeruns (36) and RBIs (137).

Then came three years in the military during World War II but upon his return to baseball in 1946, he won the MVP award and led the major leagues in OPS once again at 1.164.

In 1947 at the ripe old age of 28, all he did was to win the Triple Crown in the AL.

Ted Williams played until he was 41 years old in 1960.  He still holds the all-time career record for on-base percentage at .482.  In a total of 9,792 plate appearances, he reached base almost half the time.

Finally, much of today has been about young sports stars and their accomplishments; so, I will close with this note from Quentin Crisp about youth itself.”

“The young always have the same problem-how to rebel and conform at the same time. They have now solved this by defying their parents and copying one another.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



3 thoughts on “Youthful Impact”

  1. Youthful impact, indeed. In 1952-53, at the old age of 34 and 35, Ted Williams fought in the Korean War. Can you name another MLB player that has made such a commitment?

  2. If I recall correctly, it wasn’t just any young woman – wasn’t it Heather Locklear?

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