One of the joys of sports is that sometimes, even if you think you’ve seen everything, a performance or a moment comes along that leaves you speechless.
And then there are the athletes who just seem to defy the laws of what one imagines is humanly possible.
All of these were on display last night in one of the most inspired performances in the history of college basketball. That it came in the women’s game, which for too long has lived in the shadows of the men’s, makes it all the more special. And for us, a big reason to smile.
The stage was the semifinals of the NCAA tournament, where the Iowa Hawkeyes faced off against the South Carolina Gamecocks as distinct underdogs. South Carolina is a juggernaut, the defending champions who also just happened to enter the game undefeated this season. No longer. And that is due to arguably the most dynamic player (man or woman) in the college game: Caitlin Clark.
Even the best college athletes are usually considered superstars in the making. Clark has already arrived.
Clark has such range that sometimes it feels like she’s shooting the ball from the next county over. And she can take it to the basket with grace, speed, and power. But she’s also a whiz at passing the ball and finding open teammates. And when the ball is bouncing off the rim or backboard, it’s likely to end up in her hands for a rebound. Oh, she’s also a tenacious defender.
Clark’s performances leading up to the semifinal showdown had been dominant. In the previous game against Louisville, she scored 41 points in addition to racking up double digits in rebounds and assists. These numbers have people who know a thing or two about basketball, like LeBron James and Magic Johnson, singing her praises.
But last night was something different. It was against the best team in the country in front of a raucous sold-out arena in Dallas. It’s the kind of setting where even people who normally don’t pay attention tune in. And what they saw, what we are seeing, is unbelievable. Clark scored another 41 points along with 8 assists. Consider this: Of the 28 shots Iowa made (not including free throws) Clark either scored or assisted in all but 5 of them.
The game was close throughout, but Clark had an answer for everything South Carolina threw at her and her teammates. In the end, she was at the free throw line to seal the win. She hit both shots. Of course she did.
And now Clark and the Hawkeyes will be playing Sunday for the national title against LSU. We imagine the spotlight and the audience will be historic.
More importantly, all across the country, and around the world, young girls will be watching and thinking of their futures in sports and beyond with a new sense of what is possible. And isn’t that also a reason to smile?
Here is a highlight reel of Clark’s historic game:
— Read on steady.substack.com/p/a-superstar-shines-in-the-spotlight