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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Clark vs. Reese: Priciest WNBA Game Set for Record-Breaking Viewership

  • The two WNBA rookie stars will meet for a third time professionally, furthering what has become a heated rivalry.
  • Ticket pricing has already set a league record, while viewership expectations are lofty.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The first two WNBA matchups between rookie phenoms Caitlin Clark (above, right) and Angel Reese (above, left) did major business for the league—and generated significant controversy. Round three on Sunday is poised to reach even higher levels. 

Clark’s Indiana Fever and Reese’s Chicago Sky will play Sunday afternoon at Wintrust Arena in Illinois. Ticket resale list prices for the game on many markets are starting at $160 each—roughly twice the Sky’s average purchase price this season. As of now, the average purchase price of $271, according to TickPick, also makes Sunday’s game the most expensive WNBA contest on record. 

Expectations are sky-high on TV as well, as the second Fever-Sky matchup just five days ago generated an average audience of 2.25 million viewers on CBS, representing the largest audience for the WNBA on any network in 23 years. ESPN will carry Sunday’s game. 

Unlike last weekend, which included Father’s Day and the end of golf’s U.S. Open, the upcoming game will not have significant competition from other major sports events. 

Deeper Storylines

The Clark-Reese matchups, of course, are thick with subplots—and some of the broader discussion around the two has veered into thorny topics of race and gender, and they have become a prominent topic on sports-talk radio and TV. 

The first Fever-Sky matchup on June 1, which drew its own hefty TV audience of 1.53 million, included a hard foul on Clark by Sky guard Chennedy Carter, knocking her to the floor. That foul, later raised to a flagrant 1, set off a national debate on how much protection Clark should receive from officials, and even included some public criticism from Carter on Clark’s skills. The June 16 rematch included Reese again knocking down Clark with a blow to the head, and that foul, too, was upgraded to a flagrant 1. The Fever ultimately won both games. 

The WNBA games between the two, meanwhile, are also a continuation of the two players’ college rivalry, capped by a 2023 women’s March Madness game in which Clark’s Iowa beat Reese’s LSU in the Elite Eight. That showdown, itself a rematch of the 2023 NCAA title game last year won by LSU, drew historic viewership and helped set the stage for the ongoing professional rivalry. 

The two teams will play for a final time in the regular season on Aug. 30.

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