LeBron James Praises Current 'Icons' for Taking Women's College Basketball to Next Level

He's not wrong.
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Millions of viewers tuned into the elimination rounds of the women’s NCAA tournament in the past few weeks, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James included.

After the Lakers’ 125—120 win over the Washington Wizards, James briefly talked about the growth of women’s college basketball in recent years and gave his opinions on why the game has become so popular today.

“I think the popularity comes in with the icons they have in the women’s game,” James said on Wednesday. “You look at Angel Reese, you look at JuJu [Watkins], you look at Caitlin Clark, you look at Paige [Bueckers]. You look at the young girl that’s at Iowa State, the freshman there [Audi Crooks]. You look at [Cameron] Brink at Stanford. And that’s just to name a few.”

James’s laudatory comments come days after it was announced that the Iowa Hawkeyes’ 94-87 win against the LSU Tigers—a rematch of last year’s NCAA title game—drew a record 12.3 million viewers on ESPN on Monday. In the game watched ‘round the world, Iowa’s Caitlin Clark went 9-of-20 from three and sank 41 points while LSU’s Angel Reese had 17 points and 20 rebounds.

Under the WNBA’s current rules, college players must turn 22 years of age during the year of the draft in order to be eligible to enter. Compared to the more lenient NBA draft rules, in which players only have to complete a year of college or be 19 years old, the strict framework of the WNBA has its disadvantages but also may have contributed to the rise of the college game on the women’s side. 

“You’re able to build a real iconic legacy at a program,” continued James. “That’s what we all love about it. We love the girl’s game because of that moment you actually get to see those girls [build that]… Yeah, Iowa was a great team—Caitlin Clark is the reason we tuned in.”

Iowa is set to play the UConn Huskies on Friday in a highly anticipated Final Four matchup between two of women’s basketball biggest stars, Caitlin Clark and Paige Bueckers. 

On the other side of the bracket, the South Carolina Gamecocks will play the NC State Wolfpack in the earlier matchup on Friday in Cleveland.


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Kristen Wong

KRISTEN WONG

Kristen Wong is a Staff Writer on the Breaking & Trending News Team at Sports Illustrated. She has been a sports journalist since 2020. Before joining SI, Kristen covered four NFL teams as an associate editor with the FanSided NFL Network and worked as a staff writer for the brand’s flagship site. She has written about soccer, the NFL, NBA, and MLB since 2020, and outside of work, has dreams of running her own sporty dive bar.