Could Caitlin Clark play in the NBA? What Lusia Harris and the rules tell us about women playing in men’s league

The female presence in the NBA has grown exponentially over the last decade.

The league saw its first female coach serve as head coach when Becky Hammon stepped in for Gregg Popovich during a 2020 game. Lindsey Harding just won the NBA G League Coach of the Year as the bench boss for the Stockton Kings.

What has yet to happen, in the NBA anyway, is a woman taking the same court as the men. Could that change with Caitlin Clark?

Could Caitlin Clark play in the NBA? Exploring NBA rules regarding WBB players

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Caitlin Clark wins Collegiate Women's Athlete of the Year – NBC Chicago

The Iowa superstar has proven time and time again she is simply on another level than a majority of her peers. She has been tabbed a generational player who undoubtedly will be the first name taken off the board when the 2024 WNBA Draft takes place later in April.

Clark has become must-watch television, leading a significant movement in the women’s sport that is long overdue. With her dominance playing against the women, it has led some to wonder — where is the limit for a talent like Clark’s? Could an athlete of her caliber play in the NBA?

Before the conversation can continue as to whether or not her game would translate to the mens’ side, the first obstacle potentially in the way is seeing if she would even be able to join the highest level of professional basketball.

Here is more to know on if Clark could play in the NBA and the history of women in the league.

Could Caitlin Clark play in the NBA?

Caitlin Clark wins Collegiate Women’s Athlete of the Year

There is technically no rule in the NBA that would prohibit women from playing in the league.

The NBA is a professional basketball organization, but nowhere in the league’s bylaws does it state specifically that it is strictly for male players. So factually speaking, there is no restriction in the way of Clark joining the NBA.

Of course, there are plenty of other factors that have to be taken into consideration. The size of the game is the biggest, as the men’s players simply are taller, heavier and stronger.

Clark isn’t exactly a monster in terms of size for the women’s game, measuring in at 6-0. That would put her well on the shorter side in the NBA, with just 14 players in the 2023-24 season listed at 6-0 or shorter.

Has a woman been drafted to the NBA?

Why there's a basketball fan frenzy over Iowa's Caitlin Clark - OPB

There is only one woman who has been officially drafted to the NBA. That was Lusia Harris, who made history in 1977 when the New Orleans Jazz selected her in the NBA Draft. After a standout collegiate career at Delta State, New Orleans took the center in the seventh round with the 137th pick

Harris reportedly didn’t try out for the team because she was pregnant at the time.

While Harris is the first woman to officially be drafted, she was not the first woman that an NBA team tried to draft. In 1969, the San Francisco Warriors wanted to select Denise Long in the 13th round. However, the pick was voided by the league.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made headlines in 2013 when he said that he would “consider” drafting then-Baylor standout Brittany Griner.

“If she is the best on the board, I will take her,” Cuban said. “I’ve thought about it. I’ve thought about it already. Would I do it? Right now, I’d lean toward yes, just to see if she can do it. You never know unless you give somebody a chance, and it’s not like the likelihood of any late-50s draft pick has a good chance of making it.”

Ultimately, Dallas opted not to select Griner, who went on to join the WNBA.

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