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BREAKING: Does Caitlin Clark deserve more money? Here are the numbers



The most famous name in college basketball, Caitlin Clark, was unsurprisingly drafted to the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). The former University of Iowa star went number one overall in the draft to Indiana Fever. 

The media attention over Clark’s well deserved draft into the world of professional basketball has been less of a celebration and more of an accounting exercise. Media outlets have lamented that Clark, despite her star power, will be starting with Indiana at a salary of $76,000. Many believe this number seems low compared to their expectation of professional athletes. Others think it’s perfectly reasonable considering the low interest in WNBA games. 

Both sides of the argument have been fairly emotional and based on a lot of assumptions and not a lot of data. Setting aside that Clark accepted the salary offer and clearly believes it is an equitable exchange for her value to the team, let’s crunch some numbers and see if she “deserves” more. 

WNBA Key Stats

  • $60 million: The amount the WNBA takes in per year
  • $12.3 million: The amount which is distributed to players per year
  • $107,000: The average annual salary of a WNBA player
  • $72,000: The minimum salary of a WNBA player
  • $228,000: The highest annual salary of a WNBA player (Jewell Lloyd) 
  • 412,000: Average viewers for televised games
  • 5,679: Average in-person attendance for games 
  • 1.1 million: Highest viewed game (Ace v Storm) 

NBA Key Stats

  • $10 billion: The amount the NBA takes in per year
  • No less than 50%: The amount which is distributed to players per year
  • $9.6 million: The average annual salary of a NBA player
  • $48 million: The highest annual salary of a NBA player (Stephen Curry) 
  • 1.6 million: Average viewers for televised games
  • 17,000: Average in-person attendance for games 
  • 12.4 million: Highest viewed game (Ace v Storm) 

WNBA v NBA comparison

  • The WNBA overall makes .6% of revenue as the NBA
  • The WNBA has 25.7% of the viewership on average as the NBA
  • The WNBA has 33% of the in-person attendance as the NBA
  • The WNBA’s top viewed game had about 9% of the viewership of the NBA’s top viewed game 
  • The WNBA’s top player makes .4% of the top player in the NBA
  • The average WNBA salary is 1% of the average NBA salary 

Key Caitlin Clark key stats 

  • Lead Division 1 (both mens and womens) basketball for points and assists and three-pointers. She was the first female player to do so.
  • Broke the Division 1 record for career scoring (both mens and womens) in the NCAA. The record hadn’t been broken since the 1960s. 
  • Caitlin Clark passed Stephen Curry (the NBA’s top paid player) for number of three-pointers in a single season in the NCAA
  • In February of 2024, Clark’s star power was such that Fox sports dedicated a camera to her during all televised games
  • In the Iowa versus University of Connecticut in the Final Four in 2024 generated a record crushing 14.5 million viewers. The final game against South Carolina generated 18.7 million viewers. This is significantly higher than the NBA’s top viewed game. 
  • The WNBA draft featuring Caitlin Clark generated a peak of 3 million views. Its last closest viewership was 607,000. The viewership was slightly higher than the 2024 NBA draft. 

What conclusions can be drawn from the data? 

Based on WNBA revenue and league standards for rookie players, Caitlin Clark is receiving a normal, fair salary. But looking at the amount of viewership and audience participation the WNBA has in comparison to the NBA the numbers don’t add up to the amount of revenue they’re taking in. The WNBA is about 25% as popular as the NBA and yet they’re only raking in .06% as much money. Instead of asking whether or not Caitlin Clark is making the right salary, instead we should be asking: why can’t leadership at the WNBA tap into the potential of their organizational demand and generate revenues that are commensurate with their relative position to the NBA? It’s not that the program is unpopular – it’s that it’s not appropriately monetized. 

In looking at the star power of Caitlin Clark, the issue of revenue generation becomes clear. Clark has the potential to increase WNBA viewership across the board. The WNBA should be investing in Clark for the potential she truly has. The proverbial dollar signs in their head should be swirling over high profile, hotly marketed games with Caitlin in front and center. In looking at her college career stats, particularly her media draw, there is no reason Caitlin is walking on to a a team making barely more than league minimum. The WNBA does have a salary cap ($215,000) but it’s been defied before and it should have been defied again for the potential that Clark brings to the organization. It’s obvious that WNBA leadership (or perhaps structure) is lacking in the true vision it takes to make the organization as great as it could be. They’ve been handed a golden goose and they have no idea what to do with it. 

When Stephen Curry was the 7th round draft pick, having a lesser college scoring career than Caitlin Clark, he was making $2.7 million which is a paltry sum compared to his current salary. It stands to reason that the NBA also didn’t quite know what they had when they brought on their current star. But the NBA didn’t have the financial constraints as the WNBA and they were not in desperate need of a rejuvenation. 

Does Caitlin Clark deserve more money? That’s between Clark and Indiana. Would the WNBA be wise to invest a lot more in a star player that might be able to turn their whole organization around and bring their revenues closer to on par with the NBA in relative terms to attendance and viewership? Yes they probably should have considered the long term ramifications of promoting a player like Clark. 

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