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Sue Bird believes Caitlin Clark has the potential to become a WNBA All-Star as a rookie and encourages the Iowa star to turn pro

Caitlin Clark’s exceptional skills, from her incredible 3-point shooting to her unique passing abilities, have captured the attention of basketball fans across the country. Many wonder how her game will translate to the next level. In an extensive 60-minute interview that will be broadcast in full on Thursday on the “Sports Media Podcast,” WNBA legend Sue Bird expressed her belief that Clark has the potential to become a WNBA All-Star in her first year.

“I think if she plays up to her potential, yes, that’s realistic,” Bird said. “And, by the way, that’s not a knock on anyone in the WNBA. It’s going to be hard, but I think she can do it. You do have to see what happens when they get there. You are now playing against adults and this is their career. But I do think she has a chance at having a lot of success early, and I think a lot of it comes down to her long-distance shooting. That is her separator. You’re not really used to guarding people out there.”

Bird also mentioned that the current era in women’s basketball is well-suited for Clark’s style of play. She pointed out that another WNBA legend, Diana Taurasi, “could have been playing the way Caitlin is playing right now,” but did not have the opportunity in her time. According to Bird, players in the WNBA are not accustomed to defending shooters from such long distances. Bird retired in 2022 after a 20-year WNBA career.

Clark has the option to return to Iowa next year due to the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA. However, if she chooses to turn pro and is selected by the Indiana Fever with the No. 1 pick, Bird believes it would be a good fit for her. She emphasized that Clark would have strong post players to complement her game, and she referenced previous college players who transitioned successfully to the WNBA.

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Bird spent time with Clark last December in Iowa City as part of an episode of her ESPN+ Original series,“Sue’s Places.” The fourth-ranked Hawkeyes will next play at No. 14 Indiana on Thursday night (8 p.m. ET, Peacock).

When asked why Clark had captured the imagination of the broader basketball public during her time at Iowa, Bird credited her long-distance shooting and her role as a prominent figure in women’s college basketball during an exciting time for the sport.

“There are two that stand out the most with her, and let’s start with her long-distance shooting,” Bird said. “The one thing that cancels out people’s obsession with dunking as it relates to the comparison between men’s and women’s basketball is deep shooting. If we want to call it the logo 3, let’s call it that. For whatever reason, men in particular, they don’t hate on it. There’s nothing to hate on because it is what it is. So I think that part of her game lends to people cheering for it. I think it’s also captivating, right? The way that she plays with the long-distance shooting, it’s captivating. Everybody’s interested in it. So that’s one part of it.”

Bird added: “I think the other part is that women’s basketball is having a moment and that moment needed somebody to team up with it. So Caitlin, based on just the year in which she was born and doing what she is doing in college right now, is uniquely positioned to take advantage of this moment.”

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Clark’s decision about whether to leave Iowa has become a major debate in sports media and among sports fans. Former WNBA MVP Sheryl Swoopes recently discussed that potential rookies like Clark and LSU’s Angel Reese will take time to develop in the WNBA because it’s a veteran-heavy league.

When asked what she would do if she were Clark, Bird did not hesitate.

“If I am Caitlin Clark, I am coming out of college,” Bird said.

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(Photo: Morgan Engel / NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

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