Caitlin Clark looks behind herself after a shot.
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WNBA Pay Can't Compare to Caitlin Clark's NIL Earnings, ESPN Host Claims

Iowa women's basketball star Caitlin Clark could be making more money in NIL than she would in the WNBA, ESPN host suggests.

The NCAA's name, image and likeness (NIL) rule allows the country's top college athletes to (finally) profit from their success — so much so that certain ESPN hosts believe the best women's college basketball player will make a fraction of her current earnings upon entering the WNBA.

On Monday's edition of "Pardon the Interruption," ESPN hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon were discussing how Iowa's Caitlin Clark celebrated her 22nd birthday by gifting her entire team Nike sneakers — courtesy of her NIL deal with the iconic company.

This prompted the duo to go on a tirade about why Clark should play another year at Iowa instead of declaring for the draft. Clark would likely be the No. 1 pick by the Indiana Fever in April.

"Clark's NIL deals with Nike, Gatorade and State Farm, among others, are being estimated at $818,000, which is more than 10 times what Clark's salary — not counting endorsements — her salary would be in the WNBA next season if she went there," Kornheiser said. 

Wilbon then added, "It's a good thing the NIL — controversial as it is — those NIL deals provide that money to Caitlin Clark and so many others. Because the WNBA in this specific case can't come close to that.

"And it's going to be interesting to see how that evolves," Wilbon continued. "Both the league and what it can pay versus NIL deals and what those can pay."

There's a lot to unpack here.

Given that Clark will earn a minimum rookie salary of at least $74,000 in the WNBA, both Wilbon and Kornheiser were right in saying that Clark's current NIL valuation is more than 10 times that amount. 

What they failed to mention, however, is that those NIL brand deals — and the money that comes with them — aren't going to vanish once Clark decides to go pro. In fact, the money she's making off her various endorsements will probably increase as her fame continues to rise. 

Guard Caitlin Clark #22 of the Iowa Hawkeyes gestures to the crowd after a basket against the Georgia Lady Bulldogs late in the second half during the second round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at Carver-Hawkeye Arena

Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Therefore, Clark's NIL earnings can't be compared to her rookie WNBA salary. Instead, the WNBA salary will be an additional — albeit lesser — source of revenue on top of her existing sponsorships. That is the case for all of the WNBA's top players. 

While Wilbon and Kornheiser didn't articulate this, their point seemed to be that going to the WNBA isn't a no-brainer for Clark in terms of financial gain — which Clark herself has said is true

Yet, Clark clearly isn't worried about any of that right now. Her focus is on helping her team rebound from the shocking loss it suffered to Ohio State on Sunday. 

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