Connect with us


Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese fuel a long-running WNBA rivalry



Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese fuel a long-running WNBA rivalry

INDIANAPOLIS – Even if one or both sides don’t want to officially acknowledge the existence of a new rivalry, there are always signs – and sounds.

For example, the very loud boos from Indiana Fever fans when Chicago Sky rookie Angel Reese went to the free throw line. Or the loud cheers from those same fans when Reese (and Kamilla Cardoso) picked up mistakes.

The only sound louder than the crowd’s swell when Reese committed her fifth foul early in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game was for the T-shirt cannon.

This is what budding rivalries should sound like. They are characterized by good, old-fashioned hatred; you root against your rival as fervently as you root for your favorite team. And the Sky versus the Fever gives us just that.

These teams have played twice so far this season, with Indiana winning twice in tight games. The first matchup needs little reminiscence, as Chennedy Carter’s hip check on Caitlin Clark made that match quite memorable (and controversial). In Sunday’s game, Reese batted at the ball but inadvertently struck Clark in the head as she attempted a layup, a foul that was properly upgraded to a Flagrant 1 after a brief review by the officials.


Angel Reese’s foul on Caitlin Clark was upgraded to flagrant

Those interactions may lead the sports debate shows, but they are such a small part of what could very well become one of the best rivalries in the WNBA. This is about Reese and Clark, who faced each other in two of the most memorable NCAA Tournament games in recent memory and are now household names. This is about Cardoso, who has already established himself as a force in the paint as a pro despite suffering an injury early in the season. This is about Aliyah Boston, last year’s WNBA Rookie of the Year, who is now playing her best basketball. This is about Carter, a game changer for Chicago when she’s on the field.

This is about a wealth of young top talent, playing in cities that are only three hours apart. The teams have six players combined who have been picked in the top four in the past four WNBA drafts. These are organizations that are hungry for some success, now with the components that can help them build that success.

After the Fever’s 91-83 win over the Sky on Sunday, Chicago guard Marina Mabrey said she doesn’t see the matchup as a rivalry, adding that it’s probably only something like that for “new fans.”

But even if it’s fueled by new fans, that’s the point. It’s an obvious starting point for fans of Clark or Reese, or for anyone who was part of the record-setting crowd that tuned in to watch women’s basketball in recent seasons. The public is already drawn to these players and their personalities, and they want to see what happens if they continue to clash, even with different names on the front of their jerseys. Fever coach Christie Sides, who spent the first six years of her WNBA coaching career in Chicago, said it’s a rivalry that has existed before, but what’s different now is that there are two “really good, young teams trying to to figure it out with great players who are getting better every match.

go deeper


Fever Survives Sky: 3 Takeaways

For her part, Clark also understands why fans are drawn to this particular matchup. It’s because of her and because of Reese.

“It’s just the emotion and passion that we play with – I think people like to see that,” Clark said. “That may not be something that has always been appreciated in women’s sports, and it should be. I think that’s what makes it fun. We are competitors. That’s how the game should be. It’s going to be a little spicy. It gets a bit physical, but in the end both teams are just trying to win.

“Obviously I’ve been playing against her for a long time, and she’s a great player. It was fun competing against (Reese). I think it’s been really good for the game. People just love to see great matchups, but at the same time people also tune into these matchups (between us), but then they see how great these teams are, and then they find new players to support and keep going . come back for them too.

Or maybe they watch an incredible back-and-forth game and find new players they want to fight. That’s fine too, because that’s sport. Everything means a little more when just more fuel is added to the fire.

(Photo of Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese: Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)