Caitlin Clark’s all-time moment: The Iowa star makes his name in history with another classic performance

By | March 4, 2024

IOWA CITY, Iowa – One block away from the newly installed six-story banner honoring the city’s larger-than-life basketball superstar, a coffee shop owner spotted the occasional patron walking through the downtown pedestrian store. A quiet morning with empty streets like this used to be reserved for football game days in Iowa.

There was no football on Sunday, although the weather felt like it. It was women’s basketball and another broken record that drew fans from the city and across the country to raise the decibels at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Connor Moellenbeck, season ticket holder and owner of Daydrink Coffee, could only be amazed at the growth around the team in recent years. And on the Nike-sponsored banner, where kids dutifully posed for photos, shouting LeBron James-level status here in Iowa City.

Caitlin Clark, the basketball superstar who shoots from her banner across the downtown rooftops, now finds herself in that realm. James was among the celebrities who shouted her out on social media after she collected the third and final collegiate scoring crown of all time on Sunday by passing Pete Maravich for the most points in NCAA Division I. The record has been largely considered untouchable since he set it . in 1970 at LSU.

“Honestly, if you would have told me that before my college career started, I would have laughed in your face and said, ‘No, you’re crazy,’” Clark said of breaking through.

Iowa's Caitlin Clark celebrates in confetti during senior day festivities after breaking Pete Maravich's all-time scoring record.  (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)

Iowa’s Caitlin Clark celebrates during Senior Day festivities after breaking Pete Maravich’s all-time scoring record. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)

She had 35 points, nine assists and six rebounds in No. 6 Iowa’s 93-83 win over No. 2 Ohio State. Clark’s career total is 3,685 points, surpassing Maravich’s 3,667 in 1970. In mid-February, she passed Kelsey Plum for most points scored in NCAA Division I women’s basketball. On Wednesday, she passed Lynette Woodard to hold the all-time women’s record, including AIAW players.

Heading into her final stretch of tournament games after declaring for the WNBA Draft, she is a scorer unlike any other in college basketball history. And that says a lot.

“I’ve always been able to score the ball, but I don’t think people really understand how many great players have come before me and been able to score the ball and do it at such a high pace,” Clark said. “And do it for teams that are really good.”

Many of the 14,998 patrons signed up three hours before tipoff to participate in ESPN’s “College GameDay,” while others chased parking lots to enjoy the unusual 60-degree March weather. They delivered a loud standing ovation when Clark’s free throws whizzed after a dead-ball foul to put her past Maravich on the way to halftime. It was a rush of realization when she got on the line, and the fans answered the call, even if the celebration was more muted than her iconic logo 3 that broke Plum’s mark here last month. She came into the game needing 18 to break it, and mostly did so with early triples.

Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said she hopes the latest record will help women’s sports move forward, but “to me, you don’t have to break a man’s record to be recognized.”

“I admire Pistol Pete,” Bluder said, “but at the same time I don’t want this to become the norm for women’s athletics.”

If Clark’s efforts to break the scoring record have taught the millions involved in her quest anything, it’s that passing a man’s record can mean something, but not everything. Women’s basketball has its own rich history, which was on full display Sunday, past, present and future.

Bluder and Iowa invited Woodard to attend the regular season finale, one game after Clark broke Woodard’s record at Kansas in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

“I never had the honor of meeting Lynette Woodard until today, and it was a true privilege,” Bluder said. “She was my role model growing up, one of mine.”

Bluder said it made sense for her and the team to bring Woodard into the locker room. Woodard addressed the crowd during a timeout break, and it rose to give her one of the louder ovations for the woman whose scoring record is being ignored by the NCAA.

“I don’t think Lynette Woodard would be having this moment without Caitlin Clark,” Woodard said on College GameDay, a nod in recognition of the way her forgotten record has been discussed over the past month even though it isn’t in the NCAA record books.

Clark also wouldn’t have this moment without one of those before her or her own role model. She grew up idolizing Maya Moore, who played at Connecticut, the women’s basketball powerhouse where Clark thought she would play when she was young. Moore won four WNBA championships in seven years with the Minnesota Lynx and at one point received a hug from an excited young fan, years removed from any scoring record.

“Maya Moore was the person who shook Caitlin’s hand when Caitlin was little,” Bluder said. “And it’s just that kind of passing on, passing on, right? Because now Caitlin is that person like Maya Moore who can do that for other people. So I like that.”

Moore and Clark hugged again on Sunday after a cry of childish delight when Moore surprised Clark before the game. Carver-Hawkeye gave one of several standing ovations when Moore was introduced to the crowd late in the victory.

“What we’ve said all along is: Give us a chance to be seen, and you’ll like what you see,” Moore said twice a day, both to cheers of encouragement. When the TV ratings came out, it will likely be another game with over a million people watching Clark and the Hawkeyes.

The stars expanded from women’s basketball icons to cultural phenomena. Rapper Travis Scott sat courtside and as he crossed the field to enter the tunnel at halftime, he cheered and clapped as Clark did a TV spot. Fans hanging from the tunnel were there for Clark, but they also took Scott’s photo. Baseball Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan sat in seats where he reportedly paid $7,000 for a party of five. The game was the hottest ticket in women’s basketball history, WNBA or college, and a few stood outside the gate that morning asking for extras.

There’s so much going on for Iowa and Clark that she said she’s having a hard time saying it all. There are at most nine games left in her collegiate career — perhaps 300 more points off the all-time scoring record — and the Hawkeyes aren’t ready to be done yet.

They ended the afternoon honoring Clark and the rest of their seniors who took Iowa to its first national championship game. Fans stayed to honor Kate Martin, Gabbie Marshall, Molly Davis and Sharon Goodman before they hit the road for the final time this season. Time decreases.

“I’m just trying to enjoy the moment,” Clark said. “A record is a record. I don’t want this to be the reason people remember me. I hope people remember me for the way I played, the smile, my competitive fire. Of course they can still remember the victories, but also the fun that my teammates and I had together.”

When Clark and her teammates got together, she said they talked about the big wins, and Sunday was one of them.

“But it’s all the other moments that mean the most to us, and I think the same should go for everyone else,” Clark said.

For as many who watch Sunday and remember that Woodard didn’t deserve her, or that Moore’s success wasn’t the headline that Clark’s is, or that Iowa City wasn’t a women’s basketball town, they will now remember and talk about what it means that Clark broke the records they thought no one could.

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