Caitlin Clark-Angel Reese rivalry gets downplayed with bold claims by Stephen A. Smith

Atlanta Dream v Indiana Fever
Caitlin Clark-Angel Reese rivalry gets downplayed with bold claims by Stephen A. Smith: "Sabrina Ionescu games are similar"

The Indiana Fever’s Caitlin Clark and Chicago Sky’s Angel Reese were again the focus of ESPN’s "First Take" on Monday as Stephen A. Smith said he doesn't view the two as rivals since they do not play the same positions. He pointed out the stark difference in their games, comparing them to some of the biggest basketball rivalries in history, whose play styles almost mirror each other.

"Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ain't competing with Larry Bird as much as Magic Johnson was going up against Larry Bird. ... If (Sabrina) Ionescu and Caitlin Clark were going at one another, now that's a rivalry that I'm willing to entertain because their games are similar. ... Their games (Clark and Reese) are on two different ends of the spectrum," Smith said.

Clark plays point guard for the Fever, becoming the focal point for their offense as she dictates most of their games’ tempo, while Reese is slotted at the small or power forward positions, using her size and footwork to go around defenders and score.

There is also a significant height difference between them, with Clark being 6-foot flat and Reese being 6-3.

Additionally, the 3-point shot is a big part of Clark’s game, shooting 8.1 attempts per outing to make up most of her 16.1 points per game.

To Stephen A. Smith’s point, New York Liberty’s Sabrina Ionescu plays similarly to Clark, as the New York Liberty guard weaponized the 3-pointer long before Clark came into the WNBA, shooting 7.0 3s per game and averaging 17.6 ppg for one of the league's top teams this season.

Reese, meanwhile, plays back-to-the-basket as she often posts up a defender or sets screens and rolls to the basket. Reese dominates that area of the game through her timing while remaining a valuable contributor on defense.

Despite their contrasting styles of play, the rivalry continues to attract viewers as Sunday’s game versus each other had a sellout, with 17,274 fans in attendance.

Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese get compared to Larry Bird and Magic Johnson

Like Stephen A. Smith, former NBA player and former WNBA coach Derek Fisher voiced his opinions about the rivalry between Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese, as he likened them to the 1980s' premier rivalry of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.

“The timing of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird coming into the league after playing in the (1979) NCAA title game, and some of the underlying social things around a white player and a Black player, like, you’re seeing a little bit of that with Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark,” Fisher said on Draymond Green's podcast.

Clark, from Iowa, and Reese, from LSU, duked it out in the NCAA Tournament in the past two years before being drafted first and seventh in the WNBA draft. This time, they are both gunning for the Rookie of the Year honors.

Clark’s Fever holds two victories versus Reese’s Sky in their two meetings this season.

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Edited by Joseph Schiefelbein
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