May 20, 2024 - Sports

Detroit is missing out on Clark and WNBA explosion

Caitlin Clark of the Indiana Fever walks across the court during a game against the New York Liberty at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on May 16 in Indianapolis. Photo: Dylan Buell/Getty Images

There are no signs of a local ownership group or billionaire actively pursuing the return of a women's basketball team to Detroit as the WNBA considers expansion.

Why it matters: This year has marked a turning point in women's basketball, as teams describe skyrocketing ticket demand across the WNBA and growing revenues, ESPN reports.

Zoom out: A combination of factors — sports betting, blue chip college stars and more robust media coverage — have given women's basketball newfound popularity.

  • WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert has been open about wanting to expand the league from 12 to 16 teams by 2028. The league announced its latest expansion franchise last week, the Golden State Valkyries.

Catch up quick: It's been 15 years since the Detroit Shock departed Auburn Hills.

  • The Shock joined the league as an expansion franchise in 1998 and won three championships (2003, 2006, 2008) with Pistons legend Bill Laimbeer as head coach before Karen Davidson, the widow of former Pistons owner Bill Davidson, sold the team. It moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, under new ownership in 2009.
  • The Tulsa Shock became the Dallas Wings in 2016.

Zoom in: The Shock averaged 8,004 fans during 17 games at the Palace of Auburn Hills during their final season in 2009, Crain's reported.

  • That would be near the top of league attendance numbers now, as many teams that play in small venues are opting to play in larger arenas to host the Indiana Fever's superstar rookie Caitlin Clark.

The bottom line: Detroit isn't on Engelbert's shortlist of desired cities, but that doesn't mean we can't dream.

Detroit Shock, 2003 WNBA Championship team, is honored during halftime of the game between the Charlotte Hornets and the Detroit Pistons on March 9, 2023 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan.
The Detroit Shock 2003 WNBA championship team is honored during halftime on March 9, 2023, at Little Caesars Arena. Photo: Chris Schwegler/Getty
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