Angel Reese’s meteoric rise throughout 2023 saw her set records on the basketball floor while building her brand to be one of the most prominent faces in college athletics away from the court and on Monday she, along with Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, was named the Sporting News Athlete of the Year.
Sporting News, established in 1886, is one the nation’s oldest sporting publications and it has handed out an Athlete of the Year award, off and on, since 1968. Through the years world-class athletes such as Larry Bird, Nolan Ryan, Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, Cal Ripken, Tom Brady, Mariano Rivera and LeBron James have been awarded the honor. Last year the winner was Lionel Messi. For the award this year, Reese and Clark edged Nikola Jokic. Reese and Clark become the 2nd and 3rd females to claim the award, joining trailblazer Jackie Joyner-Kersee in 1988.
Last season Reese transferred to LSU from Maryland as the top player in the portal. She came to LSU with just over 70K followers on Instagram, a number which has now hit north of 2.5-million. Through show-stopping moments on the court and a budding brand off the court, Reese has become one of the most prolific athletes in America. She has had features in the New York Times, ESPN, Sports Illustrated and The Athletic. Her likeness has crossed over into American pop-culture on Saturday Night Live and in popular rap music. She has twice been featured on Sports Illustrated covers. Reese has appeared in Teen Vogue, the TIME NEXT100 list and the Forbes 30 under 30 list. She was also awarded the 2023 ESPY for Best Breakthrough Athlete.
She began her journey at LSU with double-doubles in LSU’s first 23 games. That set a LSU record for consecutive double-doubles and a SEC record for consecutive double-doubles to begin a season. A physical scorer and dominant rebounder, Reese went on to finish the season with a NCAA record 24 double-doubles as she averaged 23.0 points and 15.4 rebounds per game.
Through the on-court success, Reese saw her brand rise away from the court. She became a common topic of discussion following viral moments on the court like the ‘Shoe Block’ against Arkansas and the and-one tik-tok dance against Tennessee.
Reese and the Tigers used difficult losses at South Carolina and against Tennessee at the SEC Tournament semi-finals to learn and improve from to ultimately walk away with the LSU first national championship. She was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player after averaging 21.3 points and 15.1 rebounds in six NCAA Tournament games.
LSU and Iowa squared off in the national championship as the Tigers scored a NCAA Championship game record 102-points on their way to victory. Like Reese, Clark was one of the most talked about players in women’s college basketball, captivating fans with her shooting ability. With players like Reese and Clark, the buzz at last season’s Final Four was palpable, maybe more so than ever before. The intrigue helped drive a record 9.9-million viewers to tune in to watch the national championship game, driving conversation in the coming weeks and more excitement entering this season.