top of page

Shattering the Glass: Women's Basketball Continues Breaking Barriers and Captivating Audiences, Despite Battling Glaring Disparities

It’s no secret that women’s basketball is finally having its moment. A palpable buzz surrounds the sport, boosted by the 2024 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship Game between No. 1 seeds Iowa and South Carolina. The NCAA Championship game had 24 million viewers–becoming the most-viewed women’s college basketball game ever, ESPN’s most viewed college basketball game on record (Men’s or Women’s). Additionally, for the first time in history the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship game garnered more viewers (9.2 million more) than the NCAA Men’s Basketball championship game.

Spearheaded by Caitlin Clark, millions of new fans began to watch women’s college basketball this season. Iowa sold out every game they played, whether they were the home team or visitors, while millions of girls across the country both young and old donned Caitlin Clark branded merch. While Clark and Iowa ultimately lost to the University of South Carolina Gamecocks in the Championship game, Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley hasn’t been afraid to point the spotlight Clark’s way–the South Carolina coach is simply the best of the best, and stated on Bernstein and Holmes, “When I think about Caitlin Clark, I do think she's one of the greatest. Like she's the greatest of her time…. I want women's basketball to grow, and I'm not too shy about saying why it grows. She's made it grow over the past two years.”

The “March Madness effect” trickled into mid April, as this week a record 2.45 million viewers tuned in for the 2024 WNBA Draft. This number is nearly five times the viewership the Draft received just one year ago. The 2024 Draft Class was exceptional: Including players such as the face of women’s basketball, and No. 1 overall pick Caitlin Clark; the No. 2 overall pick Cameron Brink; No 3. overall Pick Kamilia Cardoso; No 4. overall Pick Rickea Jackson; and No. 7 overall pick Angel Reese (to name a few).

Further demonstrating the growth of women’s sports, SponsorUnited’s 2023-2024 NIL Marketing Partnership Report revealed that female student athletes outperformed their male counterparts in terms of NIL partnership deals over the past year. WBB stars like Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese, and JuJu Watkins led this category again, representing 35% of all women’s NIL deals–showing the world just how relevant women’s sports have become.

While most of the media spotlight this season was focused on Clark, I’d be remiss not to highlight the incredible feats accomplished by some of the sports other star players:

In her NCAA tournament debut, Juju Watkins broke Cherly Miller’s USC single-season scoring record, which has stood since Miller set her record in 1986.

Dawn Staley and the University of South Carolina Gamecocks finished an undefeated season after losing all five of the starting lineup from last season, earning the South Carolina Coach her third NCAA championship.

Iowa State’s Audi Crooks dropped 40 points in her first NCAA tournament game, as a freshman while shooting 90% from the field–the most points scored by a freshman in a tournament game, ever.

University of North Carolina’s Alyssa Ustby became the first UNC women’s basketball player to record a triple double, doing so in only 3 quarters, finishing with 16 points, 16 rebounds, and a career best 10 assists.

Thanks to the popularity of Clark and the other incredible women in the 2024 draft class, there have been several notable highs for women’s basketball in the past few weeks, and millions of newly minted women’s basketball fans are eagerly awaiting the start of the WNBA season. Despite all the excitement and anticipation it created, this week's WNBA draft has also cast a glaring spotlight onto the stark disparity of WNBA salaries to a wider audience than ever.

While on her rookie contract, Clark, the No. 1 overall pick, will earn a salary of just $76,533 this season. While one could argue that Cark will make triple this in endorsement deals, which is likely true–Think about the reality this creates for WNBA players who aren't wearing number 22 for the Indiana Fever. reports that the average WNBA player's annual salary barely approaches $103,000 per year compared to the average NBA player, which makes 9.4 million per year. A gap that large is simply unacceptable.

To put it simply, the WNBA as it currently stands does not afford their players a salary that’s comparable to their talent, which results in many WNBA players feeling the need to play overseas during the offseasons, which comes with unprecedented risks to the player, their career, and sometimes their freedom.

The millions of new women’s basketball fans will soon be exposed to other harsh realities and learn of other disparities between the WNBA and the NBA. These include examples such as the disparity in available roster slots throughout the league’s 12 teams, massive media rights disparities, commercial flight woes, and the need for league expansion into untapped markets all across the country (which each could be an article on its own).

The excuse that “no one watches women’s basketball” has clearly been debunked this season, and can no longer be used as an excuse to justify the glaring disparities in pay, conditions, and opportunities the WNBA experiences.

As the popularity of the WNBA and women’s sports clearly explodes, something must be done to address these disparities. As the public grapples with learning about WNBA salaries, it is up to us–the fans of women’s basketball–to continue this momentum into the future for the W. Women’s basketball is filled with excitement, endless stories, and big personalities both on and off the court. Change is not going to happen overnight, and the WNBA is “only” 28 years old. However, if this past college basketball season is any indication, the hype is real, and women’s basketball is a force that will only grow stronger.

The all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball, Stanford women’s basketball coach Tara VanDerveer said it best: “You gotta keep giving [women’s sports] sunshine, water and fertilizer to keep it going.”

Hannah Valente currently serves as Legal Coordinator for Raymond Representation. She is also a certified agent in the NBA, WNBA, and FIBA. She graduated from Elon University School of Law in 2022. She can be found on Twitter @hannahvalente13.

bottom of page