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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The WNBA Rookies Are Creating a New Celebrity Row

  • Kim Kardashian and Latto are among the celebrities going to games early in the season.
  • Celebrities have attended WNBA games for years, but the rookies are drawing new ones to early-season games.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Kim Kardashian and her daughter North West attended the Los Angeles Sparks’ home opener Wednesday and visited the locker room after the game. They immediately hugged Cameron Brink, who recently appeared in a campaign for the celebrity’s company Skims, and snapped photos with the rookie and her teammates.

It’s not out of the ordinary for a celebrity to attend a WNBA game. Jason Sudeikis can often be found courtside watching the New York Liberty, and LeBron James was one of many big-name athletes to attend last year’s WNBA Finals. But this year, the league’s Celebrity Row has extended beyond avid women’s sports fans. That’s because the rookies in particular are drawing a whole crop of new fans tuning in and showing up to their games, including mainstream celebrities.

The rapper Latto attended the Chicago Sky’s season opener in Dallas on Wednesday, and said multiple times that she came specifically to see Angel Reese. “I love Texas, but I did want to be at her first game. You know, everybody gonna come later, but we did it first,” Latto said.

Reese said after her evening at the Met Gala that big-name celebrities including Usher and Cardi B will come watch her play this year.

“The who’s who are going to be courtside,” Reese said. “I know some people that y’all might not think I know.”

On Thursday, ESPN’s Pat McAfee went to Caitlin Clark’s home opener in Indianapolis. Along with many new WNBA fans, McAfee is quickly becoming aware of the talent in the league, posting on social media from the game: “Has this Liberty team ever lost? B Stew.. Ionescu.. Jones.. Sabally.. Laney-Hamilton This might be the greatest team assembled of all time.” Fans were quick to point out that Kelsey Plum, who has made multiple appearances on McAfee’s show, took down the Liberty in last year’s WNBA Finals.

Athletes are also coming to watch the rookies early in the season. New Chicago Bears Caleb Williams and Rome Odunze, selected first and ninth in the NFL draft, showed up to a preseason Sky game alongside teammate Keenan Allen. Several New England Patriots came to Clark’s Tuesday debut in Connecticut, while Dirk Nowitzki and Tyrese Maxey watched the Dallas Wings host the Sky.

Even having played only a game or two in the league, the WNBA’s rookies have become some of its most recognizable athletes. They are the reason why so many people are paying attention to the start of the season, with even more viewers watching Clark’s debut than NHL playoff games. Clark in particular is aware that her fame has raised the profile of the league and has massive potential to move the business forward.

“I’ve had a lot of fun being in the spotlight and helping to grow this game and move it forward. And that’s what I’m going to continue to do,” Clark said before her debut. “But I think I know firsthand how talented this league is, whether it was me as a young kid or whether it’s me now playing here, like how many talented players are in this league. Again, the more we can share the love, the better this league is going to be.”

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