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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Guardian sport and agencies

Caitlin Clark, one day after injury scare, signs latest major endorsement deal

Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark (22) drives as Connecticut Sun guard DiJonai Carrington (21) defends in the second half of Monday’s game in Indianapolis.
Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark (22) drives as Connecticut Sun guard DiJonai Carrington (21) defends in the second half of Monday’s game in Indianapolis. Photograph: Michael Conroy/AP

One day after returning from a major injury scare, Caitlin Clark has bagged another splashy endorsement deal.

The Indiana Fever rookie and No 1 overall WNBA draft pick signed a multi-year partnership with Wilson that will include a signature basketball collection, the company announced on Tuesday.

Clark, who broke Pete Maravich’s 54-year-old record to become the all-time highest scorer in major college basketball history earlier this year, is only the second athlete after Michael Jordan to develop a signature line with the 111-year-old sporting goods manufacturer, according to Boardroom.

The deal is the latest in a mounting sponsorship portfolio for the point guard. Her sponsors include Gatorade, State Farm and Nike, with whom she signed a record $28m deal last month that includes a signature shoe.

News of the Wilson deal came less than a day after Clark left the court with what at first appeared to be a serious non-contact ankle injury. She returned later to get the Fever in position for their first win of the season. Clark fought through pain, foul trouble, even the frustration that led to an uncharacteristic late technical foul, only for the Fever to lose 88-84 to the Connecticut Sun and fall to 0-4 on the season.

“I think you could see the progress we’re making and that’s why this one hurts a lot. We were right there and we had plenty of opportunities to go win the game and you don’t,” Clark said. “We’ve played the top teams in the league and we were right there with the Sun today.”

Indiana’s brutal schedule already has included two games against last season’s WNBA runner-up, the New York Liberty, and two more against the Sun, who had the league’s third-best record last season.

The result has been a predictably difficult learning curve – four straight losses, the first three by double digits – for a young team led by the league’s newest star, who played in front of yet another announced sellout Monday night.

Clark finished Monday’s game with 17 points and five assists, all in the final 10 minutes, while making 5-of-11 shots and three three-pointers, including a go-ahead three from the Gainbridge Fieldhouse logo that gave Indiana a 70-68 lead with 7:15 to go and brought the crowd to its feet.

“That was a big shot,” she said. “We got the crowd going. I mean, that crowd was incredible.”

But Indiana’s miscues were just too costly. With Indiana clinging to a 76-75 lead with 3:37 to play, Clark turned the ball over and drew her fifth foul when she tried to fight for the ball. She was called for a technical, too, when she shouted at the refs in frustration and the Sun took full advantage.

“This is what you expect from a young team, a lot of growing pains early on, a lot of ups and downs,” Sun veteran Alyssa Thomas said. “But they have to be proud of how they responded with a hard schedule to start the season. They did a great job today.”

Clark and the Fever will have another chance to pick up their first win of the year Wednesday at Seattle.

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