Caitlin Clark mania reached a fever pitch at the WNBA’s buzziest draft ever. |T

The most anticipated WNBA draft in history wrought a party-like atmosphere of high fashion and higher nerves, say nothing of twerking elephants, before a delirious Brooklyn crowd

Indiana select Clark at head of ‘generational’ draft class


It was the biggest night in women’s basketball – but if you were judging by the dress code, you’d be forgiven for being a little confused. The 2024 WNBA draft was held in New York City on Monday night, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in a weird area of the borough that is really the confluence of two or three different neighborhoods, and the line of fans waiting to get into the venue wrapped around the block. The mood was frantic; those who didn’t have tickets waited on the side of barricades, perhaps hoping to get within earshot of a beloved player or coach and find just the right moment to shout “I love you!”.

Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, left, poses with WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert after getting selected by the Indiana Fever with the No 1 overall pick in the WNBA draft on Monday night in Brooklyn.

Indiana Fever select Caitlin Clark at head of ‘generational’ WNBA draft class

Read more

Those lucky enough to have scored a ticket to the night’s sold-out event – only the second time the WNBA opened the draft to the public and the first since 2016 – jostled in line for entry. Some arrived looking ready for the red carpet: clad in dreamy ballgowns and sparkly heels, or in snazzy suits and dress shoes. Others dressed, for a lack of a better word, regular – or boasted their favorite team’s gear. (One fan wore a T-shirt that simply said: EVERYONE WATCHES WOMEN’S SPORTS.)

No matter the look, everyone seemed to wear an air of mild desperation. Some of the greatest young talent in women’s basketball had descended on Brooklyn (earlier that day, a few of the women graced the Empire State Building with their presence for a building lighting ceremony) and the audience on Monday night would witness one of the most important night of their lives. There would be no ball played, but nerves and emotions ran high nonetheless.

Caitlin Clark vows to ‘bring it every single night’ as she joins WNBA – video

Inside the venue, the anticipation ratcheted up. There’s a thing people say about women’s basketball – that with a maximum of 144 roster spots, and so many talented ballers vying for a chance to play professionally, the WNBA is one of the most competitive leagues to break into, and more stacked with talent that it’s ever been. That’s what the inside of BAM felt like: packed with more stars than the fans knew what to do with.

For example, from the moment Aaliyah Edwards stepped out from backstage, she was signing autographs nonstop; the crowd rightly lost it as Angel Reese (in Bronx and Banco) and Caitlin Clark (head-to-toe Prada) walked on stage. At one point, Dawn Staley walked through the audience and once somebody noticed, everybody noticed; suddenly, those who were facing the college basketball players onstage whipped around to catch sight of one of the best college basketball coaches of all time make her way to her seat.

“We love you, Dawn!” someone shouted; two young girls chased after her, one asking for a selfie. (Staley obliged.)

The 2024 WNBA draft class poses for picture with Jake From State Farm on Monday night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

The 2024 WNBA draft class poses for picture with Jake From State Farm on Monday night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Photograph: Melanie Fidler/NBAE/Getty Images

The gravity of the night was stated over and over. The emcee – DJ Ria, who also pumps up the crowd at New York Liberty games – reminded the audience that we were there “to watch dreams come true”. But the vibe on the floor was silly and goofy, the way a great concert or a party feels right after it starts. The beloved Liberty mascot – a raunchy elephant named Ellie who can twerk – came out with two dancers and started busting down, bringing a slew of fans to their feet. The evening seemed to promise either delight or anguish or both: One woman, after asking me if I was media, asked me if I knew where the after-party was. (I didn’t.) Perhaps wondering if I was lying, or suspecting that someone else standing awkwardly in the space reserved for media might have more intel, she looked me in the eye and said, “I want to be your best friend.”

Once WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert took the stage to announce the first pick by the Indiana Fever, the night hit a fever pitch. Phones were hoisted in the air, screens aglow and capturing dozens of Cathy Engelberts. The Fever picked – no surprise – Clark, who has captivated viewers and spawned a whole bunch of new fans with her singular game. The crowd erupted; an instrumental track of Taylor Swift’s 22 played in the background, a cheeky reference to Clark’s jersey number while at Iowa.

Aaliyah Edwards takes a selfie with the crowd during the WNBA draft on Monday night in Brooklyn.
Aaliyah Edwards takes a selfie with the crowd during the WNBA draft on Monday night in Brooklyn. Photograph: Catalina Fragoso/NBAE/Getty Images

As Clark heads to Indianapolis, there’s a sense that perhaps the WNBA is at an inflection point. One person in the audience held up a sign that said, “FEVER’S NEWEST FAN”. The fandom is growing, and with it, maybe the 28-year-old league; the WNBA is already adding a 13th team for 2025 and Engelbert said Monday it’s hopeful about placing teams in three more new markets over the next few years. Do the players feel the change? Does it weigh heavy on their heads? Asked by ESPN commentator Holly Rowe what her number one goal is now that she is in the league, Clark said, “Be myself and have fun.” A worthy goal, if Clark and her peers can keep it.

The audience, though, didn’t need to be told twice. At some point between picks, the emcee tried to do a round of trivia; both her question about Liberty star Sabrina Ionescu and any diligent listeners’ responses were unintelligible over the rest of the crowd’s cheers. When the Chicago Sky picked Kamilla Cardoso with the third overall pick, people jumped to their feet; when the Sky later selected Angel Reese, the throngs sprang from their seats once more. There was no bad news to be had at the WNBA draft – except maybe for a few New York fans in the audience who started chanting, “We want Nika [Mühl]!” (Mühl, UConn’s stylish Croatian point guard, went to the Seattle Storm.) An instrumental version of another 2010s mainstay, LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem, played on and off throughout the night, leaving me with the refrain “Everybody just have a good time” stuck in my head for hours. Shake that.

Related Posts

Our Privacy policy - © 2024 News