Clarence Hill: Angel Reese, Caitlin Clark are good for women’s basketball. Deal with it

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The first rule of trash talk is there are no rules to trash talk.

And there is certainly no policing the clap back.

Everyone who engages in trash talk knows and understands it.

I experienced this in embarrassing fashion as a junior in high school when I hit a jumper against the best team in the district to open the game. Over hyped and excited, I followed with “on you” to my defender.

The rest of the game, after every basket, they answered with “on you” in a 25-point rout.

Lesson learned but it’s long been part of tapestry of basketball once it was moved from the peach baskets to the up-and-done in your face game that way know today that is marked by the shimmy of Steph Curry on the “too small” hand gesture of Giannis Antetokounmpo.

It’s one reason Iowa star basketball player Caitlin Clark ultimately had no problem with the viral antics of LSU forward Angel Reese in the final seconds of the Sunday’s NCAA Women’s championship game.

The 2023 Women’s Final Four on Friday was its most viewed edition of the NCAA Division I women’s college basketball semifinal across ESPN platforms in recorded history.

And Sunday’s championship game, where LSU, led by Reese and coach Kim Mulkey, won it’s first ever title, defeating Clark and Iowa 102-85, was simply the coup de grace.

But instead of celebrating what was a coming of age event for the sport at the American Airline’s Center in Dallas, the sports world is in a conniption over some trash talk clap back.

Reese, known at the Bayou Barbie, began celebrating LSU’s certain title with less than minute to go by doing John Cena’s “You can’t see me” gesture towards Clark — first at the free throw line then following her down the court.

It the same gesture Clark used in the second half of a big lead against in Louisville in the Elite Eight.

Clark, a noted and celebrated trash talker while also being known as the best player in college basketball, showed similar cockiness in semifinal upset of No. 1 South Carolina, sparking a ESPN feature, “Caitlin Clark: the queen of the clap backs.”

Yet, Reese’s antics were castigated rather celebrated.

She was called classless, trash and even cursed at by noted journalist Keith Olberman, who called her a “bleeping” idiot.

Another journalist made it about class and upbringing.

It all speaks to race and gender.

It’s appalling these these grown man are comfortable attacking a 20-year-old Black woman.

No one uttered a world when Clark did the Jon Cena move against Louisville.

That Reese did a little longer and carried it a little further is besides the point.

It’s disappointing that woman and men are still viewed differently in terms of sports, competition and passion.

These antics are not thing but a blip on the radar in men’s basketball where trash talk is celebrated and even promoted.

Of course, it’s also depends on who it comes from.

By all accounts, Clark had no problem with Reese’s antics. She had “no idea” she was being taunted.

“All you can do is hold your head high, be proud of what you did, and all the credit in the world to LSU,” Clark said after the game. “They were tremendous, they deserve it. They had a tremendous season. . .But honestly I have no idea, and I was just trying to spend the last few moments on the court with especially the five people that I’ve started 93 games with and relishing every second of that.”

Again, Clark is not mad at all.

That’s the crazy part. It’s also a sign of respect. Nobody was trash talking the other Iowa players.

It was done to Clark because of her trash talk and because of her game.

She is a baller that deserved attention after a season and a NCAA tournament that has her being compared to the all the greats.

Her 191 total points set a record for a player in a single NCAA Tournament, men’s or women’s.

Her final three games included back-to-back 41-point outings against Louisville and South Carolina and a NCAA-record eight 3-pointers in a 30-point effort against LSU.

In the end, Reese’s message and gesture wasn’t about Clark but how women are often portrayed differently by the people who cover them and coach the game.

It was similar to what South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said after their loss to Iowa in the semifinals.

“All year I was critiqued about who I was. ... I don’t fit the narrative. I don’t fit in a box that y’all want me to be in. I’m too hood. I’m too ghetto. Y’all told me that all year. But when other people do it, y’all say nothing,” Reese said. “So this was for the girls that look like me, that’s going to speak up on what they believe in. It’s unapologetically you. It was bigger than me.

“Twitter is going to go on a rage every time, and I’m happy. I feel like I’ve helped grow women’s basketball this year. I’m super happy and excited. So I’m looking forward to celebrating in the next season.”

With Reese and Clark back next season, we are all looking forward to continued growth of women’s college basketball.

Maybe, another championship game rematch awaits as well as a sure-to-be viral response from Clark, the noted queen of the clap back.

Let of play and let them talk.

It’s good for basketball.