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LeBron James Explains Why Women’s March Madness Has More ‘Star Power’

  • College teams benefit from restrictive WNBA draft rules.
  • James pointed out how women can build a ‘real iconic legacy at a program.’
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of this weekend’s Final Fours, LeBron James said there’s a big difference in “star power” between the college men and women.

And he’s giving the edge to the women. 

“I don’t think there’s much difference between the men and women’s game when it comes to college basketball,” James said after the Lakers won in Washington on Wednesday night. “I think … popularity comes in is the icons they have in the women’s games. You look at Angel Reese, you look at JuJu [Watkins], you look at Caitlin Clark, you look at Paige [Bueckers] … you look at [Cameron] Brink. … And that’s just to name a few.”

WNBA rules prevent college players from declaring for the draft until they turn 21, which means most have to stay for at least three years before turning pro. Fair to the players or not, James said the women’s college game benefits from the continuity, where the men have been living in the one-and-done era for well over a decade. 

“You’re able to build a real iconic legacy at a program and that’s what we all love about it,” James said. “That’s what we all love, and we love the girls’ game because in that moment you get to see those girls. That’s what makes the Final Four and Elite Eight so great. Iowa is a great team, but Caitlin Clark is the reason we tuned in. You’re going to watch Purdue because of Zach Edey because he’s a great player. We watched that Purdue-Tennessee game because [of] Zach Edey and [Dalton] Knecht. Players depending on who they are will drive the attention when it comes to viewership.”

James also pointed out how rampant the transfer portal is in the men’s game, although women have made heavy use of the transfer portal in recent years. (Reese, for example, transferred to LSU after two years at Maryland.) “The star power that we have in the women’s game outweighs some of the men, too,” James said, citing how the portal has made it hard to keep track of players. Ironically, James’s son Bronny, who just finished his freshman year at Southern California, has been tied to both the transfer portal or being a potential one-and-done

“If I have a big-ass season my freshman year of college basketball I’m going to the league,” James said. “Like JuJu, she can’t come out. If she could, you think she might. Maybe? But that’s the difference.”

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