Who wears the NCAA Division I scoring crown…Pete Maravich or Caitlin Clark?

Pete Maravich and Caitlin Clark. Two of the most talented and entertaining players in NCAA basketball history. And they both have made history during their respective illustrious careers. One of them has more career points than the other.

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Does that mean one is better than the other? Does it mean that one of them is more deserving of being considered the game’s all-time scoring leader? How can a judgment like that be made? How can you compare the two?

Pete Maravich, Louisiana State University

Pistol Pete Maravich

Pistol Pete Maravich was some kind of special. He played the game at a speed that was unlike anything seen before, with the skills of the best of the Harlem Globetrotters. Watching him was like watching a show rather than a game.

Back in the day, he wasn’t as well-known as he would be today because of the lack of media coverage whereas his performances would go viral in today’s world of social media.

Maravich played three seasons for the LSU Tigers and finished his collegiate career as the NCAA Division I leading scorer with 3,667 points…averaging 44.2 points per game.

Caitlin Clark, University of Iowa

Caitlin Clark

Caitlin Clark has also been some kind of special. She is a top scorer and a top playmaker. Clark has set team and NCAA records for points and assists for the Iowa Hawkeyes. She also broke the single season record for three point shots.

In her last game of the 2023-24 regular season, Clark became the NCAA Division I all-time leading scorer. She garnered a number of post-season honors, but surpassing Pete Maravich was the most glorifying of it all. In her four seasons for the Iowa Hawkeyes, she has 3771 points…averaging 28.4 points per game.

And, of course, it has led to the sports world’s next great debate. Who deserves to be called the game’s all-time leading scorer…Maravich or Clark?

This would normally be great talk show fodder…but I no longer host a radio call-in show, and haven’t for years. I’m still waiting for some offers to come along. So I figured I would check in with some of the people whose opinions I respect and value most.

Charlie Mattos, host at WSM radio, Grand Old Opry:

Charlie was a broadcast partner of mine and the voice of Vanderbilt University women’s basketball for 29 years.

“Well, take this with a HUGE grain of salt because I have never seen her play an entire game and only saw a few highlights of the record-breaking performance. 

I think anything that can draw more people to the women’s game is a good thing and I love the fact that tickets were going for a lot of money on StubHub!  

She’s an incredible player and I would want to say nothing to diminish her accomplishments but any amount of common sense would tell you it’s two different accomplishments. 

One person did what they did in three seasons without a three-point line, the other did it in four seasons with a three-point line. It’s kind of like the Roger (Maris) versus Babe Ruth debate…but if you hit a homer run into the upper deck it counted for a homer and a half.” 

Paul Frishman, Chief Executive Officer of Miami Beach JCC:

Paul was another broadcast partner of mine, and someone who is still an active athlete and with whom I have always loved having intellectually stimulating conversations with…on and off the air.

“Interesting…as “Pistol Pete” was one of my heroes growing up as I was a young and local die-hard hoopster with dreams of the NBA. That said, I really think we are comparing apples to oranges between Maravich and Clark.

Clark is clearly the top female basketball player of this “new era,” one that includes a 3-point shot and many more games. Maravich played in a totally different game – without 3’s, and one in which he amassed his totals in just three years time (forbidden to play as a freshman). Pete averaged 44.2 ppg vs Kaitlin’s around 32 ppg, I believe.

In this era where everyone and everything gets compared, ultimately again, I think it is not a true comparison due to vastly different basketball eras (landscapes), rules, opportunities, and even segregation which played a factor in Pete’s early years. To me, they are the King and Queen of NCAA hoops scoring with both sharing the throne equally.”

Bob Berger, long-time nationally syndicated sports radio host for The Sporting News and Yahoo! Sports:

Robert Berger was/is my cousin, my mentor, and the person I most looked up to when it came to sports and broadcasting.

“Here’s my take…what’s she’s done is remarkable and she’s captured the imagination of people not interested in woman’s basketball. She has scored more points than anyone in college basketball but to me it’s silly to compare her scoring feat to Maravich.

No college basketball player in history compares scoring-wise to Maravich. What he did will never be matched. In three seasons (freshman were ineligible back then) he averaged more than 44 points a game and if there was a three-point shot then he would have averaged well over 50 points a game.

Clark has put on a show but Maravich was the ultimate show, a magician on the court. Clark is a phenom so there’s no need for a comparison to Maravich but that’s what we do, always have to debate ‘who’s the best’ and I guess that’s what’s fun about sports.

Bottom line Clark has scored the most points but Maravich is the greatest scorer and no one is even close.”

Chris Carey, former outfielder, Seton Hall University:

Chris Carey

Chris Carey was the most talented male athlete I have ever coached. He was a multi-sport athlete but I had the pleasure of coaching him and enjoying his talents on the baseball field. There wasn’t a pitch you could throw that he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, hit…unless it was directly down the middle of the plate. He didn’t like those. Chris has a daughter who was a prolific scorer on the hardwood for Monroe High School in New Jersey…setting school records there.

“It’s hard to compare (Maravich to Clark) given he did it in three years and with no three point line. Totally different game back then, more team play vs shooting threes every second.

There’s a girl (Grace Beyer of University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis, MO) in NAIA who just finished with 300 more points than Clark, but different level of competition.

So in town this year they debated if a senior who scored 1030 points was better than my daughter who scored 100 more than she did. My daughter played against D1 players vs a softer competition this year.”

Madison Carey finished her career with 1,195 points.

Lori Fogliano Ecker, All Big East field hockey for the Georgetown Hoyas

Lori Fogliano Ecker

Lori Fogliano was the best female athlete, the best overall athlete, that I have ever coached. Lori was a really good softball player; she was a really good basketball player; and she was a great field hockey player. When Lori was playing field hockey for me, quite often I would forget that I was coaching…I was mesmerized and in awe of what she was able to do on the field. She was truly gifted and I would get so caught up in watching her toy with the opposition, that I would sometimes forget to make my planned substitutions during a game.

“I think Caitlin is amazing! I love all the hype around her and all women’s sports right now. Honestly, I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. With more opportunities to make a living in sports and go pro in a sport, gifted women will train harder and continue longer with their sport – and in turn break records along the way.   

I think there will always be those who say it’s not the same and that Pete did this and she did that. I think it’s all just noise. What both of them have done is amazing. The game is so different and there is no way to go back now. I feel like these comments come up with almost every record that is broken. 54 years is a long time for a record to stand so I think they both deserve the highest praise. The fact that she is female and broke the record is cool but not the main point. She works her ass off to be the best and it shows.”

Alan Karmin, former player, coach, broadcaster…current writer, father, grandfather, behavioral analyst:

 After all of this…I guess it’s my turn. It is difficult to compare players in any sport from different eras.

Immediately, thoughts go right to Babe Ruth vs. Roger Maris for the single season home run record, or Ruth vs. Hank Aaron for the career home run record. Maris clearly hit one more home run than Ruth during a season that included eight more games. Aaron hit 41 more home runs than Ruth with 4,000 additional at bats. Maris was given credit for breaking Babe Ruth’s record (albeit with a stupid asterisk for a few years) and Aaron was (and still is by some) considered the all-time home run king.

Turning to basketball…the eras are even more defined because of the changes in the game – the rules…the styles of play…the way the game is viewed by the players themselves. Basketball has probably evolved more than the other major sports during the last 50 years. How can you legitimately compare Bob Cousy to Lebron James? You can’t. Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell was always a classic debate. But you can’t argue between Chamberlain and Nikola Jokic. Those arguments just don’t work…they can’t work.

Debating between Maravich and Clark also can’t work. Yes, Maravich played only three years because that is all he was permitted to play by NCAA rules. And he didn’t have the ability to shoot three point shots because that was not a part of the college game, it was only used in the ABA in those days. And, yes, Clark was able to play four seasons. And she was able to gain an extra point each time she took a step toward setting the NCAA record for three point shots made.

Maravich scored 3,667 points…Clark checks in with 3,771. Does that make Clark the better player? No. Does it give her the NCAA Division I all-time scoring record? The answer to that question, in my analysis and opinion…yes.

What Clark has done under the scrutiny and pressure exacted upon her by the rigors and expectations of current day big-time college sports is absolutely amazing. She has brought more attention on the women’s game, and deservedly so. For those of us who have played, coached, broadcasted, and enjoyed women’s sports, the time has come for the sports, the athletes…to be truly appreciated.

Clark has done that for women’s basketball. She has also brought back the memory of an immensely talented basketball great who was a magician with the ball…long before Magic, Michael, and Lebron came along. And for those of us who actually got to see Pistol Pete play, we can be thankful for that as well.

One comment

  1. Another very well-written & thoughtful article my friend … Thank you Alan for including me in this sports conversation ! 🏀🏆🏀🏆

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