Caitlin Clark's WNBA Rookie Salary Is Less Than What Her NCAA Rookie Card Sold For

The WNBA makes a lot less in revenue than the NBA but shouldn't players make more money than their rookie card sale?

Brandon Charles - Author

Apr. 17 2024, Published 8:58 a.m. ET

Caitlin Clark and WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert at the 2024 WNBA Draft
Source: Getty Images

Considering her success in the NCAA, Caitlin Clark is definitely being underpaid. The number one pick in the most recent WNBA draft will make a $338,056 salary for her first four years on the Indiana Fever. She’ll make $76,535 for her rookie season.

Victor Wembanyama may be underpaid. The number one pick in the most recent NBA draft will make $55,174,766 for his first four years with the San Antonio Spurs. He made $12,160,680 during his rookie season.

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Both players are the future of the sport of basketball. They are captivating people around the world but only one is being paid like it. Caitlin is making less than what her college basketball card sold for.

The Caitlin Clark basketball at the WNBA Draft.
Source: Getty Images
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Caitlin Clark's rookie salary may be insulting, but it’s the league standard.

While Caitlin is a generational talent, she isn't being paid like one. She’ll make $76,535 in 2024, $78,066 in 2025, $85,873 in 2026, and $97,582 in 2027. Some people think it’s absurd that someone who helped draw ESPN’s highest-rated basketball game in 2024 is being paid a middle-class salary. It is absurd, but it’s the league standard.

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Most people didn’t realize the large pay gap disparity until Caitlin’s draft night. Most comments on social media about this point out Caitlin’s popularity and how she’ll make millions on endorsements alone. While both of those things are true, some are noting the resale market for good seats at Caitlin’s new home arena and how the team’s game will be on national TV 36 out of a potential 40 regular season games.

On April 15, 2024, Fast Company illustrated how the Caitlin Clark rising tide is lifting all WNBA ships. Tickets will cost more, the league is getting more TV time and, somewhat ironically, the biggest winner may be NBA TV. “The big winner, though, could be NBA TV, which will show a substantial number of Fever games, more than any other service. A League Pass subscription starts at $15 per month (after a seven-day free trial). And Clark’s arrival could spur more people to sign up.”

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Caitlin Clark at the WNBA Draft
Source: Getty Images

Unlike some WNBA players, Caitlin Clark's endorsement deals made her a college millionaire.

Caitlin has changed the WNBA before even playing one game in the league. Based on WNBA Draft numbers alone, it appears that roughly five times more people are now interested in the league.

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Those viewership numbers help illustrate why brands want Caitlin. According to The Sporting News, working as a spokesperson for Nike, Gatorade, H&R Block, Buick, Goldman Sachs, Bose, Shoot-A-Way (it’s a basketball shooting machine company), Hy-Vee (a Midwest grocery chain that even sells a Caitlin-inspired cereal, Caitlin’s Crunch Time), State Farm, Panini America, The Vinyl Studio, and Topps helped Caitlin pull in $3.1 million over her time as a student athlete.

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Caitlin Clark in a 2024 game
Source: Getty Images

Speaking of Topps, Caitlin's rookie card sold for more than she’s going to make as a rookie in the WNBA. According to the Jan. 26, 2024, Sports Illustrated article, “Iowa Star Caitlin Clark Makes Trading Card History with $78,000 Sale.” The Caitlin Clark 2022 Topps Bowman University Superfractor Rookie was auctioned for $1,400 more than what the athlete will make playing 40 games for the Indiana Fever.

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