Bomani Jones on Caitlin Clark Credit: The Right Time with Bomani Jones

As many in WNBA circles, from the league’s all-time leading scorer Diana Taurasi to fans online, pour cold water on the Caitlin Clark phenomenon as she joins the pros, Bomani Jones is pressing women’s hoops fans not to make their skepticism around Clark and her fans into a “larger cause.”

By which he means: Make peace with the fact that Clark is a sensation and use that as an opportunity to grow the league you love.

Jones spent an entire episode of his podcast The Right Time on Friday with ESPN commentator Domonique Foxworth discussing Clark’s next chapter, and argued that Clark is singular in style and substance. Jones added that he hopes WNBA athletes and fans will soon embrace her and the realities of the moment rather than push her — and the narrative around her — away.

“Basketball as something that is visually appealing to watch, that is a difficult standard to reach. …Parking lot jumpers are the thing that people love to see now. And Caitlin Clark is out here giving you parking lot jumpers. We’ve never had somebody in women’s ball doing the thing that is the exciting thing in men’s ball.”

After Taurasi openly doubted Clark’s bona fides during an ESPN altcast of the NCAA Women’s Final Four, tensions rose again this week when news broke that Nike is planning a signature shoe for Clark as part of a $20 million-plus endorsement deal.

While Jones is no stranger to the racial subtleties of Clark’s popularity as a white woman from Iowa, he argued this moment is not the one to pick that battle. Mostly because Clark is simply too big and too famous to deny now.

“She’s going to be a bigger deal than…who you were talking about before. She’s going to be the ‘it,’ and the ‘it’ has arrived right now,” Jones said. “There’s a measure of peace that you need to make with this rather than turning it into some larger cause. Because I think turning it into a larger cause, A, is going to do a disservice to the women that you’re putting up as points of juxtaposition, but B, y’all are just missing the point.”

During March Madness, many tried to hold up the undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks or other star players like JuJu Watkins as worthy magnets for media attention. But even South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley claimed this week Clark is the “sole reason” viewership soared for the tournament.

Jones made a similar point on his podcast Friday.

“Media coverage is not meritocratic, nor are shoe deals,” Jones said. “If people want to raise a question about how we construct stars, particularly in women’s basketball, a place where not that many stars have truly been created that have broken through … it’s kind of just how it happened this time.”

Most of Clark’s schedule with the Indiana Fever will be broadcast nationally, and many WNBA teams are moving games against Indiana into bigger venues. Nike is along for the ride, as surely is ESPN.

It’s likely too late for the sport to put the genie back in the bottle, and Jones and others argue they should not want to. Later in Friday’s The Right Time, Jones emphasized it is the league’s job to market other teams and players as part of the momentum around Clark.

“They definitely do need to figure out how to use this to sell everybody else,” Jones said. “The Caitlin Clark barnstorming tour needs to come with, ‘Alright, here is everybody else. These are the people that are going to be on the other side.'”

The WNBA season tips off in about a month, and the games as well as the narratives around the fandom and business of the league are sure to be huge stories.

[The Right Time with Bomani Jones on YouTube]

About Brendon Kleen

Brendon is a Media Commentary staff writer at Awful Announcing. He has also covered basketball and sports business at Front Office Sports, SB Nation, Uproxx and more.