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Sheryl Swoopes walks back controversial Caitlin Clark comments: ‘I made a mistake’

The WNBA legend said she reached out to the Iowa star in the wake of comments she made ahead of Clark setting the NCAA women's basketball scoring record.
Sheryl Swoopes, Caitlin Clark
WNBA legend Sheryl Swoopes (left) said she reached out to Iowa star Caitlin Clark (right) in the wake of comments Swoopes made about Clark before she set the NCAA women's basketball scoring record.AP

Basketball legend Sheryl Swoopes said she "made a mistake" with some controversial comments about college basketball superstar Caitlin Clark and her record-setting season.

Speaking during the broadcast of the Feb. 18 game between Baylor and her alma mater, Texas Tech, Swoopes shared how she reached out to Clark through an intermediary, LSU star Angel Reese. (Reese and Clark made headlines last year over some trash talk during the NCAA women's final, which LSU won.)

Swoopes, 52, had previously commented about the University of Iowa star ahead of Clark breaking the NCAA women's basketball all-time scoring record.

“A couple of weeks ago, I reached out to (Reese) and had a really good conversation with Angel over the phone and sent a message to Caitlin. She responded. She and I went back and forth,” Swoopes said during the broadcast. “I won’t share what she said, I’ll leave that to her if she wants to share. But I will say, what I said to her was, ‘I made a mistake in saying it was your fifth year when it is your fourth.’"

“I have nothing but respect for what she has done for the game. If she wants to share what her response was and how that conversation went, I’ll leave that to her. But it was a really good conversation.”

Here's what to know about the situation between the two women's basketball greats.

What did Sheryl Swoopes say about Caitlin Clark?

In an appearance on the “Gil’s Arena” YouTube show in January, Swoopes was asked about Clark by host Gilbert Arenas, a former NBA star, ahead of Clark breaking the scoring record.

Clark erupted for a school-record 49 points in a 106-89 win over Michigan on Feb. 15 to pass Washington's Kelsey Plum, a current WNBA star, to become the all-time leading scorer in NCAA women's basketball history. Clark now has 3,569 career points.

Caitlin Clark
Iowa's Caitlin Clark became the all-time leading scorer in NCAA women's basketball history this season.Keith Gillett / Icon Sportswire via AP

Swoopes incorrectly said Clark was in her fifth season with the Hawkeyes, compared to Plum achieving the record in four seasons.

Clark is in her fourth season at Iowa, so she achieved the record in the same amount of time. She is eligible to play a fifth season due to a Covid pandemic rule allowing an extra year if she chooses.

“If Kelsey Plum set that record in four years, well, Caitlin should’ve broke that record in four years,” Swoopes said on the show. “But because there’s a COVID year, and then there’s another year, you know what I mean? So she’s already had an extra year to break that record. So, is it truly a broken record? I don’t know. I don’t think so. But yeah, that’ll go in the record books. And, I don’t think it should be.”

During the show, "Gil's Arena" host Josiah Johnson pointed out that this is Clark's fourth year, not fifth.

Swoopes also said Clark takes “40 shots a game." Clark averages 22.7 shots per game. That's only three more shots per game than Swoopes averaged (19.2) as a senior at Texas Tech.

This isn’t the first time Swoopes has quibbled with a record set by Clark. Last season, Clark set the record for the most points scored in the women’s NCAA Tournament by pouring in 191 in six games. She broke the mark of 177 set by Swoopes in 1993.

"To me, she broke the record, but she did it in six games," Swoopes told Pac-12 network host Jordan Robinson last year. "I didn't get that sixth game, so I set the record in five games. So to me, yes, she broke the record, but she did it in six games."

However, she did show respect for Clark's accomplishment.

"I don't care what the record is, who has the record, anybody that can put up back-to-back 40-point games, like that's a baller," she said.

Who is Sheryl Swoopes?

Swoopes is one of the most decorated players in WNBA history.

The former Houston Comets legend was one of the league's first superstars upon its inception in 1997, winning three straight MVPs and leading the Comets to four titles during her career.

In 2016, she was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Sheryl Swoopes
Sheryl Swoopes is one of the most decorated players in women's basketball history and a Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee. Tony Duffy / Getty Images

During her appearance on "Gil's Arena," she commented on Clark's WNBA potential.

“Will Caitlin Clark be a good pro? Absolutely. Will Caitlin Clark come into the WNBA and do what she’s doing right now immediately? Absolutely not. Not going to happen,” she said.

She noted the skill level and competition for roster spots in the WNBA make it hard for any first-year player to dominate the league.

Swoopes did add that she thinks Clark and Reese have a bright future in professional basketball.

"I do think those two players not only will get there but they will be helluva WNBA players," she said. "They will get there. But more than that, their popularity, I think will absolutely be good for the league and bring in fans that the league hasn’t had before. And that is something the league needs right now.”

What was the reaction to her comments?

They were not loving Swoopes' commentary in Iowa City, as some Iowa fans responded by wearing T-shirts to the next game that said "Don't be a Sheryl" on them.

However, NBA stars like A'ja Wilson came to Swoopes' defense.

"Waittt they talking about …Sheryl as in Sheryl Swoopes ??? oh yall trippin," she wrote on X.

Swoopes also commented on Instagram on Jan. 31 following the response to her opinions.

"First off, I was asked for MY opinion," she wrote. "Not asking anyone to agree or disagree. Second, NEVER hatin' on ANYBODY. Wayyyyy too blessed for that! Third, I wish NOTHING but the best for AR and CC! Yall be blessed! Yall funny."