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The Rise of Women's Basketball

Through the global advancement of basketball, one of the most compelling narratives has been the continued growth of women’s basketball. In recent years, the sport has witnessed a surge in popularity and recognition, defying expectations and capturing the hearts of fans worldwide. With the NCAA Women’s Basketball shattering viewership records, and the WNBA 2024 draft averaging more views than the NHL and NFL drafts; the momentum behind women’s basketball is undeniable. 

Some call it the Caitlin Clark effect, as the former Iowa star took the NCAA by storm. After a championship loss to LSU in her junior year, Clark came back better than ever, continuing where she left off adding more prestigious awards to her astonishing resume. Not only did she set the record for most threes in an NCAA season, but she passed Pete “Pistol Pete” Maravich and stands as the all-time NCAA Division I basketball leading scorer with 3,952 points. Her impact was felt throughout the basketball world, leading to the NCAA Women’s Basketball March Madness tournament breaking viewing records. The rematch against LSU in the Elite Eight set a record as the most-viewed college basketball game for ESPN ever with an average of 12.3 million viewers and peaking at 16.1 million viewers. And the momentum didn't stop there. The NCAA Women’s Basketball Final between Iowa and South Carolina quickly broke the viewership record set by Iowa-LSU, drawing a record breaking 18.9 million views. For the first time ever, the women’s final charted more views than the mens final, which drew in 14.7 million viewers. This increased viewership also translated immediately to the WNBA. 

The 2024 WNBA draft marked a historic turning point in Women sports, boasting the highest viewership since 2004, when basketball icon Diana Taurasi was drafted. Back in 2004, the record stood at 601,000 viewers. Fast forward to the 2024 draft, the league saw an astounding 307% increase in viewership, totalling at a staggering 2.45 million views. When Caitlin Clark was undoubtedly the #1 pick by the Indiana Fever, fans couldn’t wait to show their support. In just an hour, Clark’s jerseys completely sold out and she wasn’t alone in this phenomenon. Her LSU rival, Angel Reese who was drafted #7 by the Chicago Sky, also saw her jerseys fly off the shelves within 48 hours of their release, further illustrating the growing popularity of women’s basketball. 

As the WNBA prepares to tip off its 28th season, the stage is set for the recognition of skill, diversity and endurance that the WNBA athletes have persevered through. This season is gearing up to be one for the record books. As it stands currently three WNBA teams have sold out their season membership tickets prior to season tip off - the Atlanta Dream, Dallas Wings, and Las Vegas Aces. In addition, WNBA teams such as the Aces and Mystics have agreed to play in larger arenas when playing against the Indiana Fever to accommodate Clark's growing fan base. As well, the WNBA has expanded its broadcasting rights and partners, expanding to broadcast live games in the UK and Ireland for the 2024 season. 

Canada’s influence on the growth of women’s basketball is undeniable and ever-expanding. With rising stars like Aaliyah Edwards getting drafted into the WNBA, joining fellow Canadians Kia Nurse, Laeticia Amihere, Bridget Carlton and Natalie Achonwa, the nation’s footprint in the sport continues to grow. The first WNBA game hosted outside the US was incredibly successful as Toronto, Canada hosted a sell-out crowd at the Scotiabank arena( Formerly the Air Canada Centre) and Canada is set to host its second WNBA game this season in Edmonton on May 4th at the Rogers Place. With talks of a potential WNBA expansion team in Canada on the horizon, the future shines bright for the continued growth and success of women’s basketball in Canada. 

IWhile Caitlin Clark’s emergence continues to make its mark and Women’s basketball continues to elevate, there’s still ground to cover for its full recognition to be felt and seen. As supporters of Women’s basketball, it’s imperative to maintain our unwavering support. The WNBA League Pass, priced at just $34.99 for the entire season, offers a prime opportunity to stay connected through 24/7 access. Let’s seize the moment to show our dedication, continue to praise these extraordinary athletes, and ensure that the future of Women’s basketball shines brighter than ever! So don't hesitate- secure your WNBA League Pass, get your tickets for the WNBA Canada Game, and continue to be a part of this amazing journey as the season unfolds!

Writers: Emily Beazley and Ruhyi Ratansi

Editor: Namz Sewali

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