WNBA champion A’ja Wilson’s hopes for Caitlin Clark, the league

Caitlin Clark’s record-breaking college career has sparked unprecedented interest in the WNBA. One of the league’s biggest stars hopes that spark turns into a flame.

Speaking at the 2024 TIME 100 Summit on Wednesday, Las Vegas Aces center A’ja Wilson said it has been “kind of amazing” to see the excitement that Clark has created around the women’s game and noted that “it’s about time” that sports fans began to appreciate women’s basketball.

But Wilson also said she hopes “that this isn’t just a trend,” and that the excitement and fervor that made Clark’s jersey the top-selling ever for a draft pick will carry over to the professional game.

“We see this a lot with young athletes,” the two-time MVP said. “Like ‘Oh my god, we love her!’ And then the minute it kind of shifts or her path is a little rocky, all that goes away.”

The 27-year-old five-time All-Star urged fans who have enjoyed Clark’s college career to stick around and help grow the women’s game.

“I hope that anyone’s invested and paying attention to it, continues to invest in it,” Wilson said. “Buy that jersey. Go to that game. Take someone else. Put your money where your mouth is and invest in these women.”

The All-Star center also commented on the major paydays top college athletes are taking home thanks to NIL rules allowing student athletes to leverage their personal brands.

She noted that the allure of making millions from sponsorships might tempt some athletes to forego going pro in favor of pursuing more lucrative opportunities. With Clark’s $76,000 rookie salary making headlines last week, Wilson said she hopes college stars continue to go pro and bring their sponsors and investors along with them.

Wilson herself has sponsorship deals with brands ranging from Ruffles to Mountain Dew to Nike. Clark, meanwhile, recently inked a reported eight-year, $28 million deal with Nike.

“I feel like we saw that this year. A lot of people were like ‘Oh my god, why would you go pro when you’re making this much?'” Wilson said. “And it’s like, that’s the whole point. Hopefully those investors, those sponsors, can continue to help you grow at the next level.”

Want to make extra money outside of your day job?┬áSign up for CNBC’s new online course How to Earn Passive Income Online to learn about common passive income streams, tips to get started and real-life success stories.

Plus, sign up for CNBC Make It’s newsletter to get tips and tricks for success at work, with money and in life.