Yahoo Sports AM: Caitlin Clark is in a league of her own

In today's edition: The Caitlin Clark effect, the "lost generation" of men’s tennis, MLB's best remaining free agents, a crazy stat about LeBron, and more.

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🚨 Headlines

🏀 NBA scoreboard: The Timberwolves beat the Thunder, 107-101, in a battle for first in the West … The Nuggets beat the Bucks, 113-107, to spoil Doc Rivers' debut … Luka Dončić scored 45 points in the Mavericks' 131-129 win over the Magic … Full scoreboard.

🎟️ Super Bowl tix: The average resale ticket price to get in the doors of Allegiant Stadium for Super Bowl LVIII is currently $11,606, according to SeatGeek's live tracker.

⛸️ Valieva ruling: After a nearly two-year investigation, Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva has been retroactively disqualified from the 2022 Olympics for violating anti-doping rules. As a result, nine members of Team USA will receive gold medals.

📈 FanDuel on NYSE: Flutter Entertainment, the parent company of sports betting platform FanDuel, began trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Monday.

⚾️ Twins-Mariners swap: The Twins are trading former All-Star infielder Jorge Polanco to the Mariners in exchange for MLB pitchers Anthony DeSclafani and Justin Topa, plus two prospects.

🏀 Caitlin Clark: A league of her own

(Matthew Holst/Getty Images)
(Matthew Holst/Getty Images)

Iowa superstar Caitlin Clark continues setting records and breaking new ground on and off the basketball court.

A league of her own: The 22-year-old senior has become such a household name that she's arguably the most famous athlete in all of college sports — a title few, if any, women have ever been able to claim.

  1. Basketball: Clark has 3,389 career points and is averaging 32.0 ppg, putting her about four games away from breaking Kelsey Plum's D-I women's record (3,527 points) and nine games away from breaking Pete Maravich's men's record (3,667). She's also on pace to become the first D-I player with 3,000 points and 1,000 assists.

  2. Memorabilia: Clark's autographed "Bowman U" trading card sold for $78,000 last week, shattering the record for a women's basketball card ($11,500 for a Diana Taurasi rookie WNBA card). In fact, the only female athlete to ever demand a higher price is Serena Williams, who had the benefit of playing professionally for decades.

  3. TV ratings: Iowa's game against Ohio State on Jan. 21 averaged 1.93 million viewers on NBC and Peacock, the largest audience for a regular-season women's game since 2010. Thanks to Clark, the Hawkeyes are set to become the first women's hoops team to play on all four broadcast networks (CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox) in the same season.

  4. Ticket sales: Iowa sold out Carver-Hawkeye Arena (~15,000 capacity) for every home game this season, a first in program history. When the Hawkeyes are on the road, opponents have seen a 150% spike in attendance. Tickets for tomorrow's sold-out game at Northwestern are reselling for as much as $1,324, per the Chicago Sun-Times.

  5. NIL deals: Clark has 1.1 million social media followers and NIL deals with companies like Nike, Gatorade, Topps, State Farm, Bose, Buick, Goldman Sachs and H&R Block. Earlier this month, she released her own cereal — Caitlin's Crunch Time — with grocery store chain Hy-Vee. Some estimates have her net worth hovering around $3 million.

  6. Team revenue: The Iowa women's basketball team brought in over $3.8 million in total revenue during Clark's National Player of the Year campaign in 2022-23, more than doubling its revenue from any prior recent year, Sportico reports.

What they're saying: "I've heard it called 'Caitlin-omics,'" Iowa coach Lisa Bluder told Corridor Business Journal. "She's the face of basketball, men or women, right now in college. She's the best player in America. If you go anywhere around the country where they know anything about basketball, they know who Caitlin Clark is."

(Matthew Holst/Getty Images)
(Matthew Holst/Getty Images)

The big picture: Clark is hardly the first culture-shifting women's college hooper (see: USC's Cheryl Miller in the 1980s, Tennessee's Candace Parker in the 2000s). She's also not the first money-making star of the NIL era (see: LSU's Angel Reese, South Carolina's Aliyah Boston). But the Iowa native is beginning to ascend into her own stratosphere.

  • A big reason why Clark has become so famous is her free-wheeling style of play, which routinely results in headline-worthy stats (see: 12 straight games with 25+ points) and viral social media clips (see: this buzzer-beater).

  • The do-it-all point guard flirts with a triple-double virtually every outing, making her games must-see TV and newsworthy. Then there's her Steph Curry-like range, which makes her a human highlight reel.

  • Clark is expected to be the No. 1 pick in this year's WNBA draft, though she still has a year of college eligibility left. Whether she turns pro or stays in school, America will be watching her.

The bottom line: We've never seen an athlete quite like Clark, whose historic career has coincided with unprecedented growth for women's sports. The Hawkeyes legend has benefitted from that momentum; she has also helped amplify it.

🎾 The lost generation

Federer, Nadal and Djokovic during the 2022 Laver Cup. (Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Federer, Nadal and Djokovic during the 2022 Laver Cup. (Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The "Big Three" have so thoroughly dominated men's tennis this century that they created a "lost generation" of players who were born at the wrong time.

Two decades of brilliance: In the late 1990s and early 2000s, men's tennis routinely had years with four different major champions. Then came Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who won 66 of 80 Grand Slams between 2003 Wimbledon and the 2023 French Open.

  • With Federer now retired and Nadal nearing the end of his career, a sense of parity has returned to the sport. Heck, even Djokovic showed his mortality last week in Melbourne.

  • So far, the beneficiaries of this shift have been players born in the 2000s, with Carlos Alcaraz (born in 2003) and Jannik Sinner (born in 2001) winning three of the last six majors.

  • Lost in the mix? Slightly older players — those in their late 20s and early 30s — who could never get over the hump during the peak years of the Big Three's reign.

Consider this: 25 women born between 1989 and 2000 have won major singles titles. For men, that number is just two: 2020 US Open champion Dominic Thiem (born in 1993) and 2021 US Open champion Daniil Medvedev (born in 1996).

  • Young Millennials like Grigor Dimitrov (born in 1991), Kei Nishikori (born in 1989) and Milos Raonic (born in 1990) have never toppled the big boys.

  • Neither have older Gen Zers like Taylor Fritz (born in 1997), Stefanos Tsitsipas (born in 1998) and Karen Khachanov (born in 1996).

Looking ahead: What will become of this lost generation once Djokovic and Nadal call it quits? Will they finally get their chance to win some titles? Or will they be stymied by Alcaraz, Sinner and other players born this century, much like they were by the Big Three?

⚾ MLB free agency: Big deals on the horizon?

Cody Bellinger is the best available hitter out there. Where will he land? (Matt Dirksen/Getty Images)
Cody Bellinger is the best available hitter out there. Where will he land? (Matt Dirksen/Getty Images)

The MLB offseason has been slow. On its own, that's not such a rarity, but the quality of players still available is unusually high this deep into winter, Jeff writes.

The Boras Four: The top four remaining free agents, all clients of super-agent Scott Boras, could each ink nine-figure deals, which would double* the number of $100 million contracts given to free agents this offseason.

  • Blake Snell, LHP (age 31): The reigning NL Cy Young (and one of just seven players to win the award in both leagues) could command upwards of $150 million.

  • Cody Bellinger, CF (age 28): The 2019 NL MVP who revived his career last season with the Cubs should fetch roughly the same number as Snell.

  • Jordan Montgomery, LHP (age 31): The durable lefty is coming off a career year and World Series title with the Rangers. Think: a Robbie Ray-type deal (~5 years/$115M)

  • Matt Chapman, 3B (age 30): If enough teams engage in a bidding war for the four-time Gold Glover, he could eclipse $100 million.

What to watch: Given Boras' history of holding out for the biggest deals and pitting teams against each other, it's possible these guys will still be unsigned when spring training begins.

Best of the rest… Future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw, 2021 World Series MVP Jorge Soler, 2019 AL batting champ Tim Anderson and three-time All-Star Whit Merrifield are among the other top remaining free agents.

*This offseason's four $100 million free agents: Shohei Ohtani, Dodgers (10 years, $700M); Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Dodgers (12 years, $325M); Aaron Nola, Phillies (7 years, $172M); Jung-hoo Lee, Giants (6 years, $113M).

🏀 LeBron's 10th father-son opponent

(Stefan Milic/Yahoo Sports)
(Stefan Milic/Yahoo Sports)

LeBron James has been around so long — How long? — that he's now faced 10 different father-son duos, Jeff writes.

The latest: The 39-year-old James reached double digits on Saturday when he faced Warriors rookie Trayce Jackson-Davis, son of Dale Davis, who James first played in 2003.

The 10 father-son duos:

  1. Davis: Dale (1991-2007) and Trayce (2023-present)

  2. Howard: Juwan (1994-2013) and Jett (2023-present)

  3. Walker: Samaki (1996-2006) and Jabari (2022-present)

  4. Smith: Jabari (2000-05) and Jabari Jr. (2022-present)

  5. Griffin: Adrian (1999-2008) and AJ (2022-present)

  6. Martin: Kenyon (2000-15) and KJ (2020-present)

  7. Brunson: Rick (1997-2006) and Jalen (2018-present)

  8. Trent: Gary (1995-2004) and Gary Jr. (2018-present)

  9. Payton: Gary (1990-2007) and Gary II (2016-present)

  10. Robinson: Glenn Jr. (1994-2005) and Glenn III (2014-21)

Consider this: LeBron has been alive for 14,275 days and he's spent more than half of them (7,398) in the NBA.

🌎 The world in photos

(Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
(Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Columbus, Ohio — 19-year-old Ilia Malinin cruised to his second straight U.S. figure skating title on Sunday after landing yet another quadruple axel — a jump so difficult he's the only person on Earth to ever complete it in competition.

(James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images)
(James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images)

West Bromwich, England — Sunday's FA Cup match between West Brom and Wolves was suspended for 38 minutes after violence erupted in the stands and spilled onto the pitch. Six people have been arrested and local police have pledged to arrest many more.

(Dario Belingheri/Getty Images)
(Dario Belingheri/Getty Images)

Andratx, Spain — The 33rd Ciclista Mallorca is underway on the Spanish island, which is the seventh-largest* in the Mediterranean Sea.

(Luca Barsali/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
(Luca Barsali/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Gap, France — The Monte Carlo Rally, the oldest rally race in the world and the first event of the 2024 World Rally Championship season, took place this past weekend in southeast France.

*The seven largest Mediterranean islands: 1. Sicily (Italy), 2. Sardinia (Italy), 3. Cyprus, 4. Corsica (France), 5. Crete (Greece), 6. Evia (Greece), 7. Mallorca (Spain)

📆 Jan. 30, 1994: Four falls of Buffalo

Head coach Marv Levy looks on during yet another Super Bowl loss. (Rick Stewart/Stringer via Getty Images)
Head coach Marv Levy looks on during yet another Super Bowl loss. (Rick Stewart/Stringer via Getty Images)

30 years ago today, the Bills lost the Super Bowl for the fourth year in a row, Jeff writes.

The four losses:

  • 1991: Giants 20, Bills 19 in Super Bowl XXV*

  • 1992: Redskins 37, Bills 24 in Super Bowl XXVI

  • 1993: Cowboys 52, Bills 17 in Super Bowl XXVII

  • 1994: Cowboys 30, Bills 13 in Super Bowl XXVIII

More on this day:

  • 🏀 1996: Magic Johnson played his first official game since retiring in 1991 after testing positive for HIV, and nearly had a triple-double (19-8-10) in a Lakers win.

  • 🏈 2000: The Rams beat the Titans, 23-16, when Tennessee WR Kevin Dyson came up one yard short of the game-tying score.

*Wide right: Scott Norwood missed the would-be game-winning FG wide right in Super Bowl XXV. 33 years later — in this year's Divisional Round — Tyler Bass also missed wide right with a chance to tie the game.

📺 Watchlist: All-Stars on the hardwood

(Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
(Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Tonight's NBA doubleheader on TNT features three of the 10 All-Star starters, Jeff writes.

  • Pacers at Celtics (7:30pm, TNT): All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Tyrese Haliburton — expected to return from his hamstring injury — go head-to-head.

  • 76ers at Warriors (10pm, TNT): The Dubs will try to slow down All-Star Joel Embiid*, whose 22-game streak with 30+ points is the fifth-longest ever.

More to watch:

  • 🏀 NCAAM: No. 15 Texas Tech at No. 25 TCU (7pm, ESPN2); No. 3 UNC at Georgia Tech (7pm, ESPN); Oklahoma State at No. 8 Kansas (9pm, ESPN)

  • ⚽️ Women's Champions League: Matchday 6 (12:45-3pm, YouTube)Four games on the penultimate day of the group stage.

  • ⚽️ Premier League: Aston Villa vs. Newcastle (3:15pm, USA) … Top-10 matchup.

*Injury report: Embiid has missed the last two games with knee soreness, and his status for tonight is still TBD.

🐻 Team nickname trivia

Four "Big Four" teams (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) are named after a bear.

  • Question: Can you name them?

  • Hint: Exactly one in each league.

Answer at the bottom.

🎾 Rohan Bopanna: On top at 43

(William West/AFP via Getty Images)
(William West/AFP via Getty Images)

It took him 61 tries, but India's Rohan Bopanna is a major men's doubles champion at last — five weeks shy of his 44th birthday.

ICYMI: Bopanna and his partner, Matthew Ebden, won the Australian Open title on Saturday in Bopanna's 61st Grand Slam. Now, despite having no cartilage in his knees, he's the oldest male major champion in the Open Era and the No. 1 player in the world for the first time.

You absolutely love to see it.

Trivia answer: Bears (NFL), Cubs (MLB), Grizzlies (NBA), Bruins (NHL)

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