If you needed another example of how significant Iowa superstar Caitlin Clark is to the game of basketball, look no further than this week’s news.
Clark’s signing with Nike on Monday added a massive name to her growing name, image and likeness (NIL) brand, which already features deals with Hy-Vee, H&R Block and others. Nike, though, is in a different category — especially for a college basketball player. Nike chooses its NIL athletes carefully, and the fact Clark was included shows just how big her national profile has become.
Likewise, Clark has been picky about which brands she wants to represent. With Nike, it was an easy choice.
“I’m pretty selective about who I work with,” Clark said Tuesday at Big Ten Media Days in Minneapolis. “I think that’s probably a no-brainer for just about anybody in the world. They’re one of the best brands, and obviously a brand that’s so prevalent in basketball and has a lot of athletes that I look up to, especially in the basketball world. I was kind of shocked at first like, ‘Oh my gosh, Nike.’ But it’s super cool and I’m super-blessed to have that opportunity.”
Clark praised her parents, Brent and Anne, and their business background for being an asset as she deals with overwhelming requests and time demands in the NIL world.
“If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know where I would be,” she said. “Those two have really, really helped me.”
She also has gotten help from an uncle, Mike Nizzi, her mom’s brother. Nike reached out after last basketball season, so the deal has been in the works for quite a while.
Clark was one of five high school and college basketball players to sign with Nike this week, joining Sierra Canyon High School stars Bronny James and Juju Watkins, Camden High School’s DJ Wagner and Stanford women’s basketball standout Haley Jones.
“She’s made such a difference, obviously at Iowa and in the country,” Maryland coach and Cedar Rapids native Brenda Frese said at Tuesday’s Big Ten basketball media days. “She’s a game-changer and just a special player to watch. Not fun to have to scout and coach against, but she’s truly one of those you have to appreciate as a once-in-a-lifetime player.”
It didn’t take long for Nike to set up its newest signed with merchandise. Clark and Jones both posted on social media what appeared to be a cooler-sized container of gear, clothes, shoes and more.
It won’t take long for one of Nike’s premier college athlete signings to make a huge impact on the season ahead. The Hawkeyes enter Clark’s third season as the Big Ten favorites while ranking fifth in ESPN’s latest “way too early top 25.”
Iowa begins the regular season Nov. 7 against Southern, with Clark the likely favorite to bring home another helping of national accolades.
“Caitlin is so electric,” Frese said. “Obviously can score the basketball as soon as she steps on the court from anywhere, that kind of range. It’s not by accident. You see a player like Caitlin Clark. When you watch those all-Americans and those players comes through, it’s so rare. So you’ve got to appreciate them in the time they get in their college careers.”
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Chad Leistikow contributed to this article from Minneapolis.