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spirit of nyc charter yacht

Spirit Yachts of New York and New Jersey

  • Length : 120 feet
  • Capacity : Parties or groups from 2 to 600
  • Home Port : Chelsea Piers Marina NY
  • Relocate : New York

Well-known for Luxury and Style

The Spirit of New Jersey and the Spirit of New York are a pair of yachts that have become a bit of a legend in the New York City area. Over the years, these luxurious charter yachts have hosted literally thousands of passengers from all corners of the world.  They are both outstanding choices for lunch cruises, graduation dinners, wedding ceremonies and Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.

Enjoy the food—and the view!

The Spirit of New York features three interior decks as well as an outdoor observation deck. Dining on both the second and third deck can accommodate up to 600 guests, making this gorgeous yacht a perfect venue for wedding receptions, cocktail receptions, and school reunions.  The second deck can seat 275 people who will enjoy being served delicious hors d’oeuvres and tasty meals by friendly waiters, all while enjoying lovely views of the passing New York City skyline. Dining takes place on the second and third deck, and a nightclub is located on the first level of the Spirit of New York.

The second deck tends to be the entertainment hot spot on the Spirit of New York. Up to 275 people can enjoy their dinner cruises or lunch cruises here, along with amazing views of the skyline and maybe a live show.  The third deck is accessible by a gorgeous interior winding staircase; this area of the yacht tends to be a bit quieter and is ideal for more intimate occasions like anniversary dinners.

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spirit of nyc charter yacht

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Spirit of new york yacht charter.

For your next special occasion or just a unique way to get out on the water in New York, come aboard today!  Up to  600 passengers.

Celebrate a special occasion, host a group event, or share a romantic evening aboard the recently renovated Spirit of New York. Enjoy incredible views from the ample windows surroungs the three climate-controlled decks as you sample crisp salad and flavorful entrees from our buffet-style dinner menu. A mouthwatering dessert assortment is served tableside late in the cruise.

After dinner, head topside to enjoy stunning views of Manhattan from our open-air observation lounge and dance to the music provided by the onboard DJ. From start to finish, a Spirti of New York dinner cruise is a lively and unforgettable evening.

Spirit of New York Sample Menu

spirit of nyc charter yacht

Grand buffets. Breathtaking views of New York from the Hudson River. DJs playing Top 40 hits. And an amazing wait staff singing show-stopping favorites. All included for one price.

spirit of nyc charter yacht


spirit of nyc charter yacht


spirit of nyc charter yacht


spirit of nyc charter yacht

New Year Cruise

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4th Of July Cruise

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After Prom Party

Corporate cruise, birthday party cruise.

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Spirit of New York

Vibrant Dining and Entertainment with Spirit

Spirit Cruise offers corporate and private party cruises – charter from 2 to 600 we can accommodate any event. Sailing from New York and New Jersey.

Festive yet affordable, a Spirit cruise is alive with vibrant dining and entertainment, day or night. Come aboard for a brunch, lunch or dinner cruise and let us engage you with our unique combination of dining, dancing, entertainment and views of New York Harbor. And it’s all included for one price.

Perfect for parties of any size, the Spirit vessels can cruise from both Chelsea Piers in Manhattan and Lincoln Harbor in Weehawken, NJ. Welcome Aboard.


Decks: 3 Capacity: 2-600

Enjoy the Vibrancy of New York City with the Spirit of New York Yacht Charter If you have been clamoring for some invigorating time in NYC, welcome aboard our Spirit of New York Yacht Charter. This is one of the most notable sail boats on New York waters and for many good reasons. The yacht comes with three interior decks and on top of that there is an outdoor observation deck for guests to have photo-worthy moments throughout the cruise. Our private yacht charter provides an ambient venue for any party in the city and with a capacity of up to 600 passengers, you can easily host any event aboard this luxurious vessel. The recently remodeled Spirit of New York Yacht is the most popular rental boat party NYC because it is primed to create a party atmosphere albeit in a serene setting. The first deck features a cocktail lounge and a large disco, which ensures your guests are on their feet throughout the cruise. The second and third decks offer dining and entertainment including delicious meals and hors d'oeuvres against the backdrop of the glorious city skyline. Your guests will enjoy the most exquisitely prepared meals and the catering can be customized to suit your event’s needs. The huge panoramic windows are perfectly designed to provide scintillating views of the city’s skyline within a classy and elegant setting. You will get a good view of the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Ellis Island, Brooklyn Bridge and other landmarks that define this great city. Your guests will get tidbits about these historic landmarks and the soft music played during meals makes the experience quite delightful. The interior decks are climate-controlled for perfect cruising any time of the year. The large outdoor deck is one of the largest either side of the Hudson and you will have an amazing time with guests catching the breeze from here. If you want to give a creative edge to your party, this rental boat party NYC has it all. The Spirit of New York Yacht Charter offers high quality catering and entertainment that will leave your guests dazzled.


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Things to know

Allowed on boat, cancellation policy strict.

  • Free cancellations until 30 days before the booking start time.
  • 50% refund for cancellations between 15-30 days before the booking start time.
  • Cancellations within 14 days of the booking start time are non-refundable.

Commercial owner

This boat belongs to a Commercial Owner, an independent boat rental company. A Commercial Owner is an independent, Boatsetter-approved boat rental company who provides their own insurance to their guests.

Security deposit

A security deposit hold (not a charge) will be placed on your credit card 48 hours before your booking starts to cover any incidental damage that may occur during your rental. This hold is released 48 hours after the booking is complete, if no claims are made. The security deposit amount for the boat you are booking will be outlined during the check-out process.

Captain info

If requested, the owner can provide a list of available captains for bareboat charter or the renter can use their own qualified captain. If the boat is being time chartered, the owner will provide the Captain.

spirit of nyc charter yacht

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Luxury Motor Yachts, Sailing Vessels, & Party Boats

Prestige Yacht Charters offers yachts for any occasion including galas, weddings, family celebrations and corporate events. Most of our vessels are based in New York City and New Jersey. Other options include Yonkers, New Rochelle, Port Washington, Stamford and other locations by request.

Our yachts feature climate-controlled interior spaces with large windows as well as ample outdoor space to fully enjoy the "yachting experience." Our customized dining options, specialty decor, entertainment and A/V systems complement the unique style and character of every yacht. Whether it's for two guests or 402 and more, we provide the vessel that's right for you...

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America 2.0

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BK Royal Princess

Cloud 9 iii, cornucopia destiny.

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Harbor Lights

Hornblower hybrid, horizon's edge, hornblower infinity.

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  • Spirit of NJ

Spirit of NY

Justine '97 yacht charter

97' Yacht with 5 staterooms. Accomodate up to 12 guests for day for day and eve cruises as well term charters. Elegant main deck salon, full Service Bar, formal dining room, and fully equipped galley. Aft deck observation area and seating, upper deck outdoor area w/ lounge seating and bar.

Juliette Luxury Yacht Charter

Juliette (Newly renovated)

Private Motor Yacht "Juliette" with 3 staterooms. Accommodates up to 45 guests for day and evening cruises as well as term charters. Features will include elegant main deck salon, full service bar, formal dining room, and fully equipped galley.

Purse Princess Sailing Yacht charter

Step Aboard this fantastic Sailing Yacht. One of the few sailing options in the NYC area. Purse Princess has a spacious deck and cabin that can accommodate up to 12 guests. Take in the sites, sunbathe, and relax in style with friends, colleagues, clients or family.

luxury sailing yachts

72ft Wooden Sailing Vessel. A true wooden yacht charter, Ventura's hull is solid mahogany plank, her decks are Indian teak and her mast made of Northern Spruce. Ventura is 72 feet long and carries 25 guests for a cruise in NY or NJ. Her original owner was millionaire banker and philanthropist George Baker, the founder of today's Citibank.

Saga luxury sailing yacht

The 40' Sailing Vessel "Saga" carries 6 passengers in safety and comfort. Perfect for an intimate sailing experience, marriage proposal or small family gathering. Equipped with luxury cockpit and lounge with air conditioning.

Pangea luxury yacht

Pangea has been recently renovated with an edgy Lounge vibe. An intimate private yacht for private cruise for 2 or a gathering of up to 25 guests, perfect option for your NYC Private Yacht experience.

Trident Charter Yacht

Trident is a 60' Hatteras Motor yacht inspected and USCG certified to carry 35 guests in style! Take in the NYC sights aboard this contemporary private yacht.

Unity Charter Yacht

Unity is an intimate private yacht offering perfect option for your NJ or NYC Private Yacht Charter. One of the few private yacht options for as few 2 guests, and as many as 40 passengers,

Liberty Charter Yacht

Liberty is the perfect setting for your NJ or NYC Private Yacht Charter. One of the few private yacht options for as few 2 guests, and as many as 30 passengers.

Calypso (LOA) Stephens Luxury Yacht Charter

72ft (LOA) Stephens Motor Yacht. This aluminum hull vessel was built in Stockton, California in 1973 for Jack Wrather, producer of the radio and television show "The Lone Ranger", who christened it the "Lone Ranger IV." Accommodating up to 34 guests.

Full Moon  Luxury Yacht Charter

The Yacht Full Moon is a 65' completely renovated classic mid-century Yacht originally designed by Henry C. Grebe & Company. Coast Guard certified for up to 40 passengers, we suggest her for intimate charters for 2 to 20 guests.

Juliette Luxury Yacht Charter

The New Jersey Charter Boat Teal can seat up to 50 guests and is best for casual buffets, cocktail parties, or any occasion on the water. Specializing in casual weddings , Sweet 16, birthdays, and informal corporate gatherings or team building experiences.

Lexington Luxury Yacht Charter

Lexington was newly re-fit 2014 with over 1 million dollars in upgrades. The NYC Charter yacht Lexington has all the modern conveniences and furnishings you would expect aboard a private yacht, including Satellite TV, generous outdoor spaces, oversized windows... too much to list. Perfect for as few 15 guests or more than 100 guests.

new york sailing yacht

The NY NJ Charter Yacht Sundancer provides an exceptional event space, perfect for any corporate or private occasion. The main level of the yacht can accommodate as many as 60 guests for formal dining or up to 100 for buffets and cocktail receptions.


The NYC charter boat Jacana, is an 85ft casual dinner boat featuring value pricing. Jacana accommodates Up to 70 Guests for a private dinner cruise or any other event. Jacana's enormous windows offers fabulous views of the New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty, and other world famous Manhattan landmarks.

Emerald Princess

Emerald Princess Dinner Charter Boat

Emerald princess is a 2-deck vessel with dining on both levels. The main deck level features seating for up to 75 guests with a buffet table and full-service bar. The upper deck is an open air space with an awning to provide shade and protection in all weather conditions.

America 2.0 yacht

The sleek and modern charter yacht BK Royal Princess seats 68 guests for formal dining and accommodates over 100 guests for buffets and cocktail receptions. The custom dinner yacht provides an exceptional event space, the main level of the yacht has oversized windows for great views.

America 2.0 yacht

77ft Classic-Designed Schooner New Jersey and New York Charter. Custom-designed, the already proven Adirondack was uniquely and specifically built to combine the style of the old world classic schooners and the comfort, efficiency, and safety of the passenger yacht charters of today for an exhilarating sailing experience. Accommodating Up To 49 Guests.

Adirondack Sailing Yacht

Adirondack Sailing Yacht

78ft Classic-Designed Schooner New Jersey and New York Charter. Custom-designed, the already proven Adirondack was uniquely and specifically built to combine the style of the old world classic schooners and the comfort, efficiency, and safety of the passenger charter yachts of today for an exhilarating sailing experience. Accommodating Up To 49 Guests.

Arabella Luxury Yacht

Arabella Luxury Yacht

157 ft Luxury Yacht New Jersey and New York Charter. Flagship of the Manhattan Yacht Club, Arabella is based in New York Harbor near Ellis and Liberty Islands, and offers magical views of the Manhattan skyline and Statue of Liberty. Arabella can host both small and large groups. Accommodating Up To 149 Guests.

spirit of nyc charter yacht

The Kingston is a classic 1920's style yacht with room for up to 49 guests. It's great for birthday parties, small corporate events, anniversarys and parties.

Wedding cruise Packages

80ft Classic Motor Yacht. This is a brand new 1920's style 80 foot motor yacht that cruises the Hudson river, Harlem river, and East river, including full round-Manhattan trips. She runs year round with a heated aft-deck observatory. Classically-lined and comfortable, she is USCG certified for 90 passengers and can accommodate 50 for a sit-down dinner cruise. Accommodating up to 80 guests.

Manhattan Classic Yacht Charter

1920's Style Classic Motor Yacht. This 1920's style 100 foot motor yacht has beautiful teak wood interior. The sister ship to Manhattan , the larger Manhattan II can hold up to 80 guests and is available year round.

Sailing Yachts & Vessels hudson river

95ft Luxury Motor Yacht. Comfortable for up to 80 guests. Built specifically for elaborate entertaining. Your private luxury yacht is perfect for NYC Yacht Cruise Charter to show you the sights New York City is famous for.

spirit of nyc charter yacht

The NY NJ Charter yacht Manhattan Elite is an exceptional event space. Perfect for any corporate or private event. The main level of the yacht can accommodate as many as 60 guests for formal dining. We can do up to 100 guests for buffets and cocktail receptions.

spirit of nyc charter yacht

With a covered awning, outdoor seating and luxurious lounge areas, the versatile 90-foot Charter Yacht Espirit can be adapted for nearly any occasion. The main deck seats up to 65 guests for formal dining and can accommodate up to 100 guests for buffets and cocktail receptions.

spirit of nyc charter yacht

122ft Fantail Motor Yacht. Built in 1926, Mariner III embodies the elegance and luxury of America's Golden Age. Rich varnished mahogany, gleaming brass, and handcrafted beveled lead crystal windows from Paris are just some of the gracious details on this classic charter yacht. Accommodating up to 120 guests.


Lucille is an 80ft casual party boat. She can accommodate up to 130 guests for NYC dinner cruises, social gatherings or other function. Lucille has a full service bar and two decks, ensuring plenty of dance room to entertain guests.


NYC Charter Yacht Cosmo is an 80ft casual party boat that can accommodate up to 130 guests for dinner cruises, social gatherings or other functions. Cosmo has a full service bar, dining deck with dance floor and outdoor observation area, ensuring plenty of space entertain guests.

Avalon Party Boat

Avalon is an 80 ft casual party boat that can accommodate up to 130 guests for NYC social gatherings, partys or other functions. With a full bar, two decks, and a large dance floor to entertain guests, Avalon has the feeling of a private floating nightclub.

Festiva Luxury Yacht Charter NYC

85ft Casual Motor Yacht perfect for your NJ Yacht charter. She Accommodates up to 149 guests. Festiva has two decks. Each level has a full bar, open decks, and large windows offering spectacular views. The upper deck has a large dance floor, complete with sound, light, and Karaoke systems.


The Afffinity is a 120ft NYC private yacht charter. This luxury yacht can accommodate up to 140 guests for an intimate NYC dinner cruise, social gathering or business meeting. The luxury yacht charter, Affinity, was designed and built in 1967 by Bender Shipbuilding for Mr. and Mrs. Tom Bender, President and CEO of Bender Shipbuilding and the ship was originally christened " El Toro". The yacht was refurbished in 1984 and then christened Entrepreneur l, and then refurbished in 2007 and christened "Affinity".

Cloud 9 Luxury Yacht Charter

A Contemporary Cloud Nine IV Yacht Charter accommodates up to 150 guests in style and comfort. One of our most popular NYC Dinner yachts, Cloud Nine IV boasts dining and dancing on one level with 2 dance floors, 2 bars, multiple lounge areas, and abundant outdoor space for sightseeing. Available for NY and New Jersey yacht Charters as well as CT and other locations.

Sailing Yachts & Vessels hudson river

Newly redesigned Jewel is a 100ft NYC private yacht charter than can accommodate up to 149 guests and is the only NYC Charter Boat with a nightclub setting. An open Upper Deck allows you to take in the marvelous view of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan Skyline during your NYC cruise. The Jewel is the ideal setting to provide the perfect atmosphere for a successful occasion.

Party Boat Harmony

The NYC Harmony Yacht is a 100' Party Boat designed to accommodate parties of all kinds with room for up to 300 guests. Its modern amenities make it perfect for dance parties, weddings, corporate events, birthday parties, and more.

Majestic Princess Luxury Yacht Charter

The MAJESTIC PRINCESS was designed for entertaining. Spacious decks and panoramic windows provide spectacular views of New York's skyline. The Majestic Princess is available for afternoon or evening cruises to celebrate almost anything.

Royal Princess Luxury Yacht Charter

The 125' Royal Princess offers 3 decks of upscale luxury for up to 180 guests and formal dining for 160. She has two indoor levels and a spacious open air deck. Features multiple Dining and Cocktail Party options with dance floors for entertaining and dining.

Cabana Luxury Yacht Charter

Cabana Party Boat

NYC Party Boat Cabana, one of New York's most popular party cruise boats and located at Skyport Marina on Manhattan's East Side. She features a 360 Degree Panoramic main deck. Your guests are treated to the backdrop of the famous bridges, majestic skyline, and spectacular panoramas in NYC Harbor during your voyage!


The newly refurbished 145' private yacht charter is a three level luxury yacht certified to carry up to 350 guests. The main dining salon will seat up to 290 guests on one level with a large dance floor. The cocktail lounge is tastefully decorated with luxurious leather recliner couches and additional furniture that enhances both beauty and comfort.

Cornucopia Destiny Luxury Yacht

Destiny, a NJ charter yacht, boasts spacious open-air areas on the third and fourth decks. It offers seating for over 200 guests in a formal dining room as well as a bridal suite and elegant lounge. Perfect for entertaining large groups for all types of events!


The Atlantis is a 147ft NY private yacht charter that can seat over 175 guests for formal dining and accommodates up to 350 guests overall. The Atlantis is one of the most luxurious yacht charters in the New York harbor. The Atlantis is a New York charter yacht complemented with the utmost in service while offering exquisite catering in our formal dining salon.

Horizons Edge Mega Yacht

Horizon's Edge is a one of the largest NYC charter yachts available. Newly renovated and ready for your big event. With an overall length of 186 feet, the yacht can seat 500 for dining, and up to 600 guests for cocktail receptions in complete comfort and style.

Timeless Mega Yacht

The Timeless has three indoor decks with seating for 300, and room for 550 guests. All three interior decks are heated and air conditioned, they also feature a fully stocked bar on each level and a full size dance floor. The fourth level is a large open-air promenade, ideal for taking in the magic of New York City.

Cornucopia Princess Mega Luxury Yacht Charter

Cornucopia Princess

130ft Mega Luxury Yacht. Multi-tiered interior features elegantly appointed tables, spacious dance floor and, of course, the magnificent scenery. The perfect yacht for a wedding, birthday party, corporate event, and many other functions. Accommodating up to 400 guests.

Harbor Lights Yacht Charter

NYC yacht charter, Harbor Lights, can accommodate over 300 passengers. It’s a 3-level dinner yacht with (2) bars, a dance floor, and a full gallery. Harbor Lights is ideal for any event including NYC dinner cruises or a wedding cruise.

Liberty Belle Riverboat

105' Classic Riverboat available for all NYC Party boat cruises. This vessel has 4 decks, abundant outdoor space, large dance floor, and 5 bars- A truly unique vessel perfect for any corporate or private event, especially themed events. Add a bit of Southern Charm to your NYC Boat Charter experience.

Hornblower Hybrid

For an event that impresses, look no further than the Hornblower Hybrid. New York's newest, flashiest and most desirable venue on the water is hosting weddings, galas, corporate events, and memorable occasions.

Sensation Yacht Charter

TThe Sensation Charter Yacht is ideal for large gatherings such as a wedding or company celebration. At 114 feet, and with a seating capacity of 300 guests, Sensation is also surprisingly versatile with two climate controlled decks and an exterior sky deck.

Serenity Yacht Charter

An impressive yacht for nearly any occasion, Serenity has two climate-controlled decks with fully stocked bars and large windows. With a cocktail capacity of 350 guests, the yacht can also host 280 people for a sit-down dinner. The observation deck is perfect for wedding ceremonies.

Hornblower Infinity Yacht

The Hornblower Infinity is a 210ft private NYC yacht charter that can accommodate up to 1,000 guests. The Hornblower Infinity is a spectacular new NY charter yacht that will change the landscape of New York. Recently remodeled with a bold design, this vessel will match the uniqueness of New York from the distinct entertainment areas to the top-of-the-line food and beverage.

Paddle Wheel Queen

Paddle Wheel Queen

The Paddle Wheel Queen is a NY private yacht charter that can accommodate from 50 to 360 guests. This unique yacht charter provides an attractive venue for private dinner cruises, meetings, NYC wedding cruises and special events. The vessel has its own character and style.

Skyline Princess Luxury Yacht

120ft Luxury Motor Yacht. Three spacious levels, fully enclosed and climate controlled. The third level has an extensive dance floor and observation deck, perfect for your photo opportunity and magnificent view of the New York City Skyline and the Statue of Liberty. Accommodating up to 450 guests.

spirit of nyc charter yacht

NYC yacht charter, The Spirit of New York, has three interior decks, plus outdoor observation deck. This private NYC yacht charter is a truly unique setting for any event or New Jersey or NYC dinner cruise. The entire ship can accommodate up to 600 passengers.

Spririt of New Jersey

Spirit of New Jersey

The New Jersey Yacht Charter, Spirit of NJ, is a 175 ft private yacht charter that can accommodate up to 600 guests. This NJ charter boasts elegance with modern interior design, combining colorful LED lighting, updated décor and much more.

Princess Luxury Yacht Charter

160ft Luxury Motor Yacht. Climate-controlled for year-round comfort and features panoramic windows for unobstructed views. The two spacious sundecks are perfect for lounging over dessert with a cognac or enjoying a lovely stroll after dinner. Accommodating up to 500 guests.

spirit of nyc charter yacht

160ft Luxury Motor Yacht. Her modern decor gleams with polished brass and affords panoramic views from anywhere onboard. This beautiful yacht features a baby grand piano on both decks, permanent hardwood dance floor on the River Deck, state-of-the-art sound system and is climate-controlled for your guests' comfort year round. Accommodating up to 500 guests.

Bateaux Luxury Yacht

The 200ft Bateaux is a luxury NYC private yacht charter. This NY charter can accommodate up to 300 Guests. The private yacht charter, Bateaux, is a very sleek and modern luxurious glass enclosed atrium NY yacht. The Bateaux is an elegant, architectural masterpiece designed for optimal comfort and flexibility, as well as stunning views. Ideal for a NY dinner cruise, this yacht is available for deck or full ship charters only.

spirit of nyc charter yacht

210ft Mega Luxury Yacht. She is the largest yacht on the New York Harbor available for up to 1000 people. Great for large corporate events, weddings, alumni associations, and more. This is truly one of the most spectacular yachts in the New York City metropolitan area. Accommodating up to 1000 guests.

Yacht Events

The Hornblower Infinity

Hornblower infinity charter yacht.

The Hornblower Infinity is a 210ft private NYC yacht charter that can accommodate up to 1,000 guests. The Hornblower Infinity is a spectacular new NY charter yacht that will change the landscape of New York. Recently remodeled with a bold design, this vessel will match the uniqueness of New York from the distinct entertainment areas to the top-of-the-line food and beverage. The open bow, covered sky deck and over-sized windows will provide endless opportunities for enjoying the countless sites in New York Harbor.

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Yachting in New York, NY

Yachting in New York, NY

It is easy to forget that the Big Apple is an island with its skyscraper buildings, fast-paced lifestyle and glamour. Spend the day cruising the East River, beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, past Liberty, Ellis and Governor’s Island. Plan a memorable Manhattan Cruise dinner down the Hudson River with a cocktail in hand and a stunning New York skyline backdrop.

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100 Manhattan luxury charter yacht - Chelsea Piers, New York, NY, USA

100' Manhattan

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Once you confirm your reservation, your broker will process your payment.

  • If you are booking for a single day and your reservation is confirmed more than 7 days in advance, a deposit of either $1,000 USD or 50% of the total cost of the reservation (whichever is greater) is processed immediately in order to hold the yacht. Once your embarkation date is 7 days away, the remainder of the amount due is processed.
  • If you are booking for a single day and your reservation is made 7 days or less in advance, the total price of your reservation is processed immediately.
  • If you are booking for a multi-day charter and your reservation is confirmed more than 30 days in advance, a deposit of 50% of the cost of the yacht is processed immediately in order to hold the yacht. Once your embarkation date is 30 days away, the other 50% is collected for the price of the yacht, plus the APA, plus the taxes due.

Terms of refunds are dictated by the Charter Agreement. Generally, once a payment is collected, it is non-refundable. In certain circumstances, as dictated by the Charter Agreement, credits can be provided so you will be able to enjoy your yacht charter at a future date that is convenient for you.

Why is there a 3% credit card convenience charge?

Are my payment details saved on the app, what if your servers get hacked is my payment information really safe.

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Spirit Charter Yacht

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  • Amenities & Toys
  • Rates & Regions
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54.3m  /  178'2   amels   2011 / 2020.

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Cabin Configuration

Special Features:

  • Worldwide adventurer with exceptional performance
  • Sundeck Jacuzzi, bar and grill
  • Skylounge serves as cinema room
  • Huge master suite with private office and lounge
  • Spa treatment room
Spirit is a distinctly sophisticated superyacht promising unforgettable luxury yacht charters

The 54.3m/178'2" motor yacht 'Spirit' by the Dutch shipyard Amels offers flexible accommodation for up to 11 guests in 5 cabins and features interior styling by Italian designer Nuvolari Lenard.

From bow to stern, Spirit is brimming with an fantastic array of social and dining areas, both inside and out, making her the ideal yacht for relaxing and entertaining whilst on charter. Her features include a spa, beach club and gym.

Guest Accommodation

Families will particularly love Spirit thanks to her child-friendly setup. Built in 2011, She offers guest accommodation for up to 11 guests with a layout comprising a master suite, two VIP cabins, one double cabin and one twin cabin. The supremely spacious full beam master suite incorporates its own study and dressing room. There are 7 beds in total, including 4 king, 2 queen, 2 singles and 1 pullman. She is also capable of carrying up to 13 crew onboard to ensure a relaxed luxury yacht charter experience.

Onboard Comfort & Entertainment

A charter on Spirit is comfortable and convenient thanks to the provided amenities including a serene luxury spa, for the utmost in relaxation. Make your day truly exceptional at the beach club plus a gym with all the latest equipment is available for a good work out. Retreat to the deck jacuzzi and soak up the scenery.

Spirit benefits from some excellent features to improve your charter including Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing you to stay connected at all times, should you wish. Guests will experience complete comfort while chartering thanks to air conditioning.

Performance & Range

Built with a steel hull and aluminium superstructure, she offers greater on-board space and is more stable when at anchor thanks to her full-displacement hull. Powered by twin MTU engines, she comfortably cruises at 13 knots, reaches a maximum speed of 15 knots with a range of up to 5,182 nautical miles from her 115,000 litre fuel tanks. An advanced stabilisation system on board reduces the side-to-side roll of the yacht and promises guests exceptional comfort levels at anchor or when underway.

Set against the backdrop of your chosen cruising ground, you and your guests can enjoy endless days of fun on the water with the exceptional collection of water toys and accessories aboard Spirit. Principle among these is a Freestyle Cruiser waterslide for hours of fun for all ages. Guests can experience the thrill and adventure of riding one of the two Yamaha VXR WaveRunners. In addition there is a towable toy offering fun and adventure. If that isn't enough Spirit also features waterskis, scuba diving equipment, a seabob, wakeboards, kayaks and much more. When it comes to Tenders, Spirit has you covered - with two tenders, including a 6.75m/22'2" Meyer Open Tender.

Book your next Bermuda and the Caribbean luxury yacht charter aboard Spirit this winter. She is already accepting bookings this summer for cruising in the Mediterranean.

This ocean-going luxury charter motor yacht carries up to 13 professional crew who will cater to your every need.


There are currently no testimonials for Spirit, please provide .

Spirit Photos

Spirit Yacht 11

Amenities & Entertainment

For your relaxation and entertainment Spirit has the following facilities, for more details please speak to your yacht charter broker.

Rendez-vous diving only.

Spirit is reported to be available to Charter with the following recreation facilities:

  • 1 x 6.75m  /  22'2 Meyer Open Tender
  • 1 x 6.2m  /  20'4 Pascoe RIB

For a full list of all available amenities & entertainment facilities, or price to hire additional equipment please contact your broker.

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For a full list of all available amenities & entertainment facilities, or price to hire additional equipment please contact your broker.


Your family and friends could learn to scuba dive on your charter vacation onboard this luxury charter yacht. Motor Yacht Spirit is a certified PADI Dive Centre yacht so you could obtain your PADI diving card .


Your family and friends could learn to use the water toys on your charter vacation onboard this luxury charter yacht. Motor Yacht Spirit is a certified RYA Training Centre yacht.

'Spirit' Charter Rates & Destinations

Mediterranean Summer Cruising Region

Summer Season

May - September

€295,000 p/week + expenses Approx $320,000

High Season

€325,000 p/week + expenses Approx $353,000

Cruising Regions

Mediterranean Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Turkey

HOT SPOTS:   Amalfi Coast, Corsica, French Riviera, Mykonos, Sardinia

Bermuda Winter Cruising Region

Winter Season

October - April

$295,000 p/week + expenses

$325,000 p/week + expenses

Bermuda Caribbean Antigua, Bahamas, Cuba, Saint Martin, St Barts

HOT SPOTS:   Virgin Islands

Charter Spirit

To charter this luxury yacht contact your charter broker , or we can help you.

To charter this luxury yacht contact your charter broker or

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Spirit of New Jersey

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Spirit of New Jersey yacht charter Rental

On which Spirit ship will you cruise?

It all depends on the date, departure point and type of cruise you choose. Sometimes the Spirit of New Jersey cruises out of Chelsea Piers in Manhattan and sometimes the Spirit of New York cruises out of Lincoln Harbor Marina in Weehawken, NJ, and vice versa. Whichever ship you’re on, be assured you will enjoy the same high-energy dining and entertainment experience that has made Spirit Cruises a legend on New York Harbor.

About the Spirit of New Jersey: Perfect for parties of two to 400 guests, the two-deck Spirit of New Jersey offers a sleek and fresh approach to dining and dancing on the water:

  • Huge panoramic windows all around
  • Bathrooms on each interior deck
  • Outdoor strolling decks at bow and stern
  • Full outdoor patio deck topside with cafe-style seating
  • Full-service bars
  • Handicap accessible
  • Two dance floors & staging areas
  • Flexible seating arrangements
  • Spirit of New Jersey Yacht Charter

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‘Below Deck’ Sails Into a New Era

With a different captain at the helm and new production elements, the reality show about charter yachts is switching up its style.

A man in a crew member suit stands behind a bar and tends to flowers in a vase.

By Shivani Gonzalez

Starting a new season of “ Below Deck ” can be similar to returning to summer camp as a kid — you know it’s going to be fun and that you’ll be in the same environment, but some of the people will be different and you’re not quite sure what the vibes will be.

This time around, in particular, feels that way because for the first time in the show’s 11-season run, Captain Lee Rosbach is no longer at the helm. It’s a pivotal moment for a franchise that has become one of the most popular entities in the sprawling universe of reality TV since premiering on Bravo in 2013 . The show’s appeal was built on endless romances between various crew members (“boatmances,” as they came to be known), horrible charter guests and some sort of passive-aggressive fight about how many shackles of the anchor chain should be in the water. And there was always Rosbach presiding over the drama as he trudged around the boat, reeling off one liners like “I’m madder than a pissed-on chicken” and “we screwed the pooch so many times we should have a litter of puppies running around.”

At the center of the show now is Kerry Titheradge (the stern yet goofy captain of “Below Deck Adventure” fame), who is managing the Motor Yacht Saint David with the cheeky chief stew Fraser Olender by his side.

With that change in captain, the energy on the boat — both onscreen and off — is different, according to Olender.

“Lee has a no B.S. attitude, which I love with him,” Olender said in an interview. “With Kerry, he taught me a lot and sort of forced to me confront issues directly with my team, work them out, as opposed to making executive decisions too soon.”

This shift in management style changes the central conflict — whereas the drama once focused on the captain swiftly kicking out any unpleasant crew member (as we might have seen with Rosbach), the drama now focuses on the whole crew trying to get along (since Titheradge gives people those second chances).

Additionally, Olender noted that the captain’s relationship with the crew can also affect the drama on board.

“Captains absolutely do get involved, whether they know it or not,” Olender said, adding that for the crew, everything is about “trying to impress your captain.”

This phenomenon plays out early in the new season when the lead deckhand, Ben Willoughby, called out a fellow crew member over the radios about not wearing a life vest — something he easily could have done in private. The drama that followed became an interpersonal conflict between the two of them, both with the ultimate goal of impressing Titheradge. (Of course, the two deckhands had kissed on the previous crew night out, which is more in line with the “Below Deck” drama viewers are used to.)

For “Below Deck” showrunners, the changeovers in the cast allowed them to rethink what the show would look like.

From the season premiere, it was immediately apparent that Rosbach’s absence wasn’t the only change this season: The filming is sleeker, the daily, multicourse meals prepared by the chef are given their own glamour shots and the cameras sometimes cut to the perspectives of yachties running around on deck and through the galley.

“Our showrunner, Lauren Simms, is an avid consumer of all different kinds of media,” Noah Samton, a senior vice president of unscripted current production for NBCUniversal, said in an interview. “She pitches us different ideas on how to stylistically evoke different feelings and change the mood a little bit of ‘Below Deck’ without removing what really works.”

Moving through the rest of the season, and potentially through seasons to come, Olender is aiming to bring a cutthroat management style while also bringing affection for his stews, all with his signature British humor.

On Bravo’s side, there are changes in the works for the other “Below Deck” spinoffs — including “Sailing Yacht,” “Mediterranean” and “Down Under” — which collectively, have 26 seasons. Specifically, Samton said that “Down Under” is currently filming and that even though fans should be ready to see new things, the show will stay true to its original concept.

“These are real yachties doing a real job so you have to stay within those confines because the audience isn’t going to want anything that is too produced or fake,” Samton said. “So we have to find ways to reinvent while staying true to the original concept of the show.”

And as Olender said: “I’m sure that every year if I were to work with this franchise again, that I’ll be thrown a collection of total chaotic and disastrous stews — that’s what makes it watchable.”

An earlier version of this article misquoted Fraser Olender, the chief stew of “Below Deck.” He said, “I also feel like Kerry this season. ... Lee has a no B.S. attitude, which I love with him,” not “I feel like Kerry this season, as opposed to Lee, has a no B.S. attitude, which I love with him.”

How we handle corrections

Shivani Gonzalez is a news assistant at The Times who writes a weekly TV column and contributes to a variety of sections. More about Shivani Gonzalez

Addressing the Negativity Sailing Doodles Podcast

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I address the negativity that my most recent video received from viewers in the comment section. People make a lot of assumptions without knowing all the facts, so I did my best to give them the proper informationLink to the pay per view video: https://www.sailingdoodles.com/bvi-movie-final/Link to my new catamaran Island Spirit 525: https://navigare-yachting.com/en/yacht-ownership/new-yachts/island-spirit/island-spirit-525-nn/209?ny=4163Link the the Croatia Flotilla: https://navigare-yachting.com/en/events/other/join-sailing-doodles-on-a-croatia-yacht-charter-with-navigare-in-july-2024

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Caitlin Clark and Iowa find peace in the process

An Iowa associate professor breaks down the numbers to display Caitlin Clark's incredible impact on women's college basketball. (2:08)

spirit of nyc charter yacht

ON A COLD, snowy Monday night in January, Caitlin Clark walked into a dimly lit restaurant in Iowa City and looked around the room for her parents. They smiled from a back table and waved her over. It was her 22nd birthday. Three teammates and the head Iowa Hawkeyes manager were with her, and soon everyone settled in and stories started to fly -- senior year energy, still in college and nostalgic for it, too.

That meant, of course, tales of The Great Croatian Booze Cruise.

In summer 2023, as a reward for their Final Four season, the Iowa coaches arranged a boondoggle of an international preseason run through Italy and Croatia, grown-ass women, pockets thick with NIL money to burn. They saw places they'd never seen, spoke strange languages and walked narrow cobblestone streets. "One of the best nights was when we got bottles of wine and just sat on the rooftop of the hotel," Caitlin said.

On the last free day of the trip, they proposed a vitally important mission to head manager Will McIntire, who now sat at the birthday table next to me.

They needed a yacht.

Like a real one, the kind of boat where Pat Riley and Jay-Z might be drinking mojitos on a summer Sunday. So McIntire found himself with the hotel concierge looking at photographs of boats. He asked Caitlin about the price of one that looked perfect.

"Book it right now," she said.

They climbed aboard to find a stocked bar and an eager crew. The captain motored them out to nearby caves off the coast of Dubrovnik where the players could snorkel and float on their backs and stare up at the towering sky. They held their breath and swam into caves. They looked out for one another underwater. When stories of the Caitlin Clark Hawkeyes are told years from now, fans will remember logo 3s, blowout wins and the worldwide circus of attention, but players on the team will remember a glorious preseason yacht day on crystal blue waters, a time when they were young, strong and queens of all they beheld. They'll talk about the color and clarity of the sea. A color that doesn't exist in Iowa. Or didn't until Caitlin Clark came along.

The Booze Cruise lived up to its name. After the stress of a Final Four run and the sudden rise of Caitlin's star, it was a chance to be a team and have nobody care and to care about nobody else. Many of their coaches didn't even find out about the yacht until the team got home.

"It was just what we needed," McIntire said at the birthday dinner table. It was the kind of night parents dream of having with their grown children. Often three conversations were going at once. Caitlin's dad, Brent, was telling McIntire about the wild screams and curses that come from their basement when one of their two sons is playing Fortnite.

"You should hear her play Fortnite," McIntire said, pointing to Caitlin.

"Is she good?" Brent asked.

"No," he laughed.

Caitlin told a story about her freshman year roommate almost burning the dorm down trying to make mac and cheese without water. She and Kate Martin told one about both of them oversleeping the bus at an away game -- they awoke to both their phones ringing and someone knocking on the door as they made eye contact and shouted "S---!" in unison.

There was one about Caitlin in full conspiracy-theory rage, too, convinced that Ohio State had falsified her COVID-19 test result to keep her out of a game.

"This is rigged!" she told her mom on the phone. "They're trying to hold me out!"

Anne took over the narration.

"Call the AD!" she said, imitating her daughter.

"I did not say that!" Caitlin said.

There was the time Caitlin needed to pass a COVID-19 test for games in Mexico. She showed up in the practice gym, throwing her mask on the ground while waving her phone and crowing, "I'm negative, bitches!" ... until one of her teammates looked at the email and realized Caitlin had read it wrong, so she quickly grabbed her mask and bolted. As the stories flew, Caitlin smiled, loving to hear her teammates, happy to be with them.

We raised glasses again and again, and her dad beamed. Her mom kept thanking her teammates for taking such good care of her. They toasted to Caitlin, to CC, to 22 and to Deuce-Deuce. The waitress brought over a framed collage she had made, along with a note thanking Caitlin for inspiring "girl power."

Caitlin's mom made a final toast.

"Happy birthday," she said.

"Happy birthday, Caitlin," Kate Martin said, turning to her left and asking her, "What was the best thing that happened in Year 21?"

Caitlin thought about it for a second.

"Final Four," she said.

Everyone clinked their glasses.

"Not even the booze cruise?" one of them asked.

They all laughed.

"Booze cruise!" everyone shouted.

MY INTRODUCTION TO Caitlin Clark's world began in September over breakfast with Hawkeyes associate head coach Jan Jensen, who grew up on an Iowa farm before building a basketball legend of her own.

We met at an old-guard Jewish deli while Jensen was on a brief Los Angeles recruiting trip, flying in from Alaska that morning and flying back home that night. We ogled the cake case with the towering meringue pompadours but settled on something healthy, along with about a million refills of coffee. Jensen held a cup in her hands and summed up the challenge now of being Caitlin Clark.

"She's figuring out how to really live with getting what she's always wanted," she said.

Jensen smiled before she continued.

"She wants to be the greatest that ever was."

She pointed at me as if to underline her meaning.

"I believe that in my heart," she said.

Jensen averaged 66 points a game in high school in the days when girls played 6-on-6. She is in Iowa's girls high school basketball Hall of Fame. Her grandmother, Dorcas Andersen Randolph, who went by "Lottie" because she scored a lot of points, is too. Jensen still has her uniform. She sees Caitlin standing on the shoulders of generations of women like Lottie.

She also understands Caitlin is standing on no one's shoulders.

"She's uncensored," Jensen said. "So many times women have to be censored."

Jensen leaned across the table again.

"There is something in her," she said. "Unapologetic."

To Jensen, Caitlin seems immortal; young, talented, dedicated, rich, famous and on the rise.

"She's 21," she said.

A magic age, her confidence and talent startling to older people like me and Jensen.

"Don't ever let anyone steal that from her," Jensen said. "Protecting that is the coach's job."

Jensen spoke with pride of Caitlin's 15 national awards, but she also said she is so talented, and driven, that she sometimes struggles to trust her teammates. This would be the work of this season and the epic battle of Caitlin's athletic life. She sees things other people do not see, including her teammates. She imagines what other people even in her close orbit cannot imagine, has achieved what none of them have achieved and has done so because she listens to the singular voice in her head and her heart. She must protect that and nurture it. At the same time, she is learning that her power grows exponentially when it lives in concert with other people. A great team multiplies her. A bad team diminishes her. The trust her coaches ask her to have in her teammates, especially new ones, comes with great personal risk. Believing in her coaches requires faith and courage. For their part, the Iowa coaches know that they are holding a rare diamond and are constantly reminding themselves their job is to polish, not to ask her to cut to their precise specifications. It's an effort, possession by possession, game by game, practice by practice, to meld two truths, to find the right balance, to elevate.

"It's a work in progress," Jensen said.

After last season's run to the NCAA title game, the Hawkeyes lost their star center, Monika Czinano, who's now playing pro ball in Hungary. She started every game Caitlin had ever played except one, and her dominance in the post taught Caitlin how successful teammates created space and opportunities at other spots on the floor. She still talks to Monika. Her trust in Monika's replacements is the Hawkeyes' most fragile place this year and will say a lot about whether this team can return to the Final Four.

"That's gonna be the struggle for her," Jensen said.

This idea would, in the coming five months, create two narratives for me, one public, one private, one about a superstar standing on center stage surrounded by an ever-growing mania, and another about a young woman trying to find herself, trying to decide how and who she wanted to be , in the center of that madness.

The waitress warmed up our coffee.

Jensen said she'd introduce me to Caitlin as soon as there was time in her schedule. Then she slipped out of our booth and headed out for a scouting visit at a nearby high school. I had a meeting with Priscilla Presley for another project later that day across town. We talked about life in the fishbowl with Elvis. She told me about how only a handful of memories remained hers alone even all these years later. I thought about Caitlin somewhere 30,000 feet in the air on a plane home from New York City after she received her final award of the 2023 season.

THIS IS A STORY about being 21. Do you remember turning 21?

At 18 you feel immortal but just three years later, a crack has opened in that immortality. You feel the gap between ambitions held and realized. You're aware that wanting things badly enough won't always be enough. You guard against bad energy and thoughts and hold fast to every ounce of confidence. That's when life really begins.

The size of Caitlin Clark's stage and the scale of her dreams and the reach of her talent leave little margin for error. She is chasing being the best of all time, which is an isolating thing. She isn't scared to voice her ambitions even when they separate her from the people she loves. Her teammates dream of merely making a WNBA roster. Kate Martin did the math for me one evening. There are 12 teams. Each team has 12 roster spots. College basketball might be a bigger public stage than the professional league, but it is much easier. The normal dream of a 21-year-old women's college basketball player, then, is the nearly impossible task of finding just one of 144 spots on a WNBA team, which has nothing to do with normal. A lofty dream might be to win one national award, not 15. When Caitlin gave her Associated Press Player of the Year trophy to her parents, her mom looked inside and gasped -- some of the metal on the inside was already peeling and rusting.

"What happened?" she asked Caitlin.

Caitlin shrugged sheepishly.

"The managers got it," she said.

It turns out the trophy, her mom said with a shake of the head, holds two beers. (Actually, the managers fact-checked -- it's two hard seltzers.) Caitlin is grateful for the awards but got tired of traveling around to get them, not because she didn't appreciate the attention but because she seemed to sense that her survival and continued success would depend in part on her closing the book on last season. The past is dangerous to an ambitious 21-year-old. It was a struggle to get her on the plane to New York City to accept the AAU's prestigious Sullivan Award. She asked whether it couldn't simply be mailed to her instead. In the end, she and her family had 12 hours in the city so she wouldn't miss any class. Michael Jordan talks about this -- the speed at which things come at you, the way, when you look back, it becomes hard to remember what happened where and when. That's Caitlin Clark's world right now, and inside she feels both like a superstar and like the little girl begging her father to expand the driveway concrete so she'd have a full 3-point line to shoot from. She references her childhood a lot in public, revealing comments hiding in the plain sight of news conferences and one-on-one interviews.

"I feel like I was just that little girl playing outside with my brother," she says.

The Clarks landed in New York and went straight to their hotel. Thirty minutes later, Caitlin hit the lobby dressed for the show. She signed autographs, posed for pictures, received the Sullivan Award, took more pictures, gave a speech and took more pictures. The family had just a few hours to sleep before heading to the airport for the flight home. But it was her first trip to New York City, and Caitlin said she wanted to see Times Square and get a slice of pizza. They went out and took a photograph, everyone together, then watched as Caitlin ordered a pepperoni slice, which arrived greasy on a stack of cheap paper plates. She folded it like a veteran. In the morning, they flew home. Caitlin rode with her headphones on. She likes Luke Combs. Turned up. Hearts on fire and crazy dreams. The next day she'd be at morning practice and then take her usual seat in Professor Walsh's product and pricing class.

IN MID-OCTOBER, I got to Iowa City in time for the second practice of the year. I ran into head coach Lisa Bluder in the elevator down to the Carver-Hawkeye practice gym, and she laughed about how two fans from Indiana just showed up at the first practice and were walking onto the court taking selfies. Bluder had to stop practice and politely ask, you know, what the hell? They explained they had traveled far to see Caitlin Clark in person.

At 8 a.m., practice began, and almost immediately Caitlin was vibrating with anger at the referees, who were actually team managers with whistles. The whole team looked out of sorts -- "little sh--s," one of their assistants called them during a water break -- and Caitlin fought her temper as several of her young teammates made mistakes. The main object of her scorn was a sophomore named Addison O'Grady , No. 44, who had become a bit of a punching bag. And all the while she raged at what she thought was the terrible job being done calling fouls and traveling.

"Stop letting him ref!" she barked to Jensen about a manager on the baseline. "He's not calling anything!"

She jacked up a 3.

"I don't love that 3," Bluder told her. "You were in range, no doubt. But you were not in rhythm and were contested."

Now Caitlin started talking to herself. What is the offense right now? This is a pretty regular thing, Caitlin Clark talking to Caitlin Clark, scolding her, cursing her, complaining to her, because who else could understand?

"Call screens," she muttered.

"We must call screens," Bluder yelled. "Somebody's gonna get hurt. Somebody's gonna get rocked."

Then Caitlin touched her leg gingerly, which set off a chain reaction of anxiety and hushed attention. She took herself out of an end-of-game drill to rest it. Then, unable to resist, ended up in the drill anyway.

At the end of practice, Bluder described the long road awaiting them if they wanted a return to the Final Four. The promised land, she called it. Everyone on the team knows that Caitlin has given all of them a challenge, yes, but also a gift. An opportunity to breathe rare air. Caitlin's best requires their best, and if they give it, they might just be able to beat anyone.

"Caitlin's got a hell of a lot of pressure," Bluder told them. "I get it."

But it was more than that.

"We are her," she said.

I MET WITH CAITLIN a few minutes later. We found some chairs in the Iowa film room.

"I'm trying to learn about myself as a 21-year-old," she said. "About how I react to situations, what I want in my life, what's good for me, what's bad for me."

The back wall of the film room featured larger-than-life portraits of the Hawkeyes, with Caitlin dominating the center of the collage. She gets the absurdity. Most every person walking around on the planet is a watcher. A consumer of the lives and adventures of others. Caitlin was like that, standing in line as a little girl to meet a hero like Maya Moore. In her bathroom at home in Des Moines she kept a caricature she got at an amusement park that shows her wearing a UConn uniform. But during last year's NCAA tournament, when she averaged 31.8 points and 10.0 assists in leading Iowa to the championship game, she became one of the watched .

"... and I'm 21 years old!" she said, shaking her head and shrugging her shoulders with a grin, as if to say: Buy the ticket, take the ride.

"I don't f---ing know."

She's a household name now. Nike puts her on billboards like Tiger or Serena. She is the best women's college basketball player in the country, and one of the best college basketball players period . She has designs on best ever, a fraught thing to want. She admires Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, apex predators, and her ambition and talent live within her in equal measure alongside her youth and inexperience. She is striving for agency and intent in the glare of a white-hot spotlight. Luke Combs commented on her social media a few hours ago. She got free tickets and backstage passes to see him over the summer and also got tickets to Taylor Swift's "The Eras Tour." She invited the biggest Swifties on the team, trying to use her new superpowers for good. The Hawkeyes are forever asking her to DM their celebrity crushes and invite them to games. She laughs and tries to explain why she can't get Drake to Iowa City. A local newspaper reporter recently asked her about LSU's Angel Reese being in a Sports Illustrated swimsuit spread, a trap question asking her to comment on the marketability of their bodies.

She earns seven figures and has deals with Bose, Nike and State Farm. The Iowa grocery store chain Hy-Vee, another corporate partner, sometimes pays for her private security at public events.

Meanwhile, her mother still does her laundry.

"I'm trying to learn about myself," Caitlin repeated.

"At the same time I have to be the best version of myself. I have to be the best version of myself for my teammates, and for the fans, and for my family ... "

She laughed again.

"Yeah," she said, pausing to find the right words, feeling the weight of the coming season.

"Yeah," she said again.

Having been to the Final Four last year doesn't make another Final Four easier. It makes it harder. Fame is a warm saccharine glow that obscures the terminal velocity of expectation. "That adds to the tension," she said. "Every failure feels that much more intense. And every success also feels that much more intense. So it's about finding balance."

She sounded like an old soul, knowing how precious these days of glory are and how they are already slipping between her fingers. But that might just be because a middle-aged man was the one doing the listening. Most likely she is experiencing time in an altogether different way, so that right now, all at once, she is living with last year's almost , with this season's grind and hope, and with the knowledge that if everything goes right there is a future in which every year will be harder than the one before, and every season the watchers will be ready to replace last year's model with some newer, shinier object.

"When I leave this place, I don't want people to forget about me," she said.

THAT SAME MONTH, Brent and Anne Clark, who could only look at each other in wonder, parked in the West 43 lot next to the football stadium, where that afternoon their little girl would be playing an exhibition outdoors at Kinnick Stadium in front of the largest audience to ever watch a women's college basketball game.

"It's wild," they kept saying over and over.

"This is all she ever wanted!" Anne said as we set up the food and drinks. "She's asked for years: 'Can we please do a tailgate?'"

Brent stopped and listened to the band practicing inside the stadium. They played "Wagon Wheel." He found a spot where the sun felt warm on his face.

"So what's up with these sandwiches?" asked Caitlin's older brother Blake.

Her younger brother Colin hooked up the portable speaker. He's a freshman at Creighton, where he has found a community of his own. He and his sister adore each other. When he was a baby, the family called her "Caitie Mommy" because she took such good care of him, and now Brent and Anne love to see him celebrate her success. The first track he played was AC/DC's "Back in Black," the Hawks' football walkout song. Anne reached for a cardboard cutout of Caitlin's beloved golden retriever, Bella, a leftover from her freshman season when COVID-19 meant no fans in the seats.

Brent threw a football with one of the young family friends. Around him other fathers did the same with their sons and daughters, many of them wearing No. 22 jerseys, girls and boys.

"Look at all these little girls going in," Anne said.

Some football players walked through the parking lot, and nobody paid them much mind. Former Iowa and NFL star Marv Cook stood talking with Brent about Caitlin and her teammates when the football guys went past.

"They're not the only show in town anymore," Cook said.

The Clark car was packed with Hy-Vee fried chicken sandwiches, cookies, a cooler of beer and soda, these strange pickle-ham-cream cheese concoctions, the most Midwestern thing you've ever seen in your whole life -- "soooo gross!" Caitlin said later.

The lieutenant governor of Iowa stopped by to pay his respects.

"Hawk Walk!" he said.

Everyone went to form a line of cheering fans as the Iowa bus parked and the players went into the stadium. Anne Clark worked herself close holding up the cutout of Bella so Caitlin could see. One of the little girls next to Anne treated her like a Mama Swift sighting at a show.

"She touched me!" she screamed to her friends.

Caitlin went into the football locker room to get ready. Outside, the stadium pulsed with energy. Walter the Hawk swooped down from the press box. Then the dozens of speakers ringing the main bowl started thumping. "Back in Black" again. The whole place shook. Caitlin stepped into the light pouring into the mouth of the tunnel.

"I-O-W-A!" the crowd chanted.

"Let's hear it for No. 22, Caitlin Clark!" the announcer called.

Someone started an M-V-P chant.

The wind blew across the court. Caitlin even air-balled a free throw. Nobody cared. She got a triple-double. Stayed focused. With a minute left she threw a pass that center Addi O'Grady fumbled. Caitlin twirled around and hung her head but went back to her on the next possession.

The game ended in a blowout, and then Caitlin started working her way down the front row of the sideline, more than 50 yards of little girls and boys. They took selfies and asked her to sign their shirts. One young boy held a sign that said, "Met you at Hy-Vee."

"Thank you for coming!" Caitlin yelled.

As she finally ran into the tunnel, she jumped up and high-fived a young girl.

"No way!" the girl said.

Caitlin made it to the locker room, where she had stored a gift a very sick child had given her. The kid was a patient at the children's cancer ward across the street and was serving as an honorary captain. She'd had her own baseball card made, and on the back she'd been asked to name her favorite Hawkeye. Caitlin Clark, she said.

"I'll keep that forever," Caitlin said.

She left the stadium through a side door, got on the back of a golf cart with her boyfriend and headed to the basketball arena, where her parents waited with an enormous bag of freshly washed and folded clothes.

ONE MORNING LAST YEAR I drove across Des Moines to see where all this began. Although Caitlin hasn't been a student at Dowling Catholic for almost four years, her presence -- and her family's presence -- remains palpable in the halls. Her older brother won two state titles in football. Her younger brother won a state title in track. Caitlin's grandfather, her mom's dad, was the beloved football coach there for years. Once after an emotional game he gathered his team at midfield and burned Des Moines Register articles about his team he didn't like.

Caitlin comes by her fire honestly.

I parked and met the basketball coach, Kristin Meyer, in the lobby adjacent to the chapel. We walked through the library to her office. She told me a story that stuck with me. In 10th grade, Caitlin got a reading assignment about empathy. She didn't know what the word meant. Meyer tried and failed to explain. She realized then that she had a team of girls who wanted to enjoy playing sports -- "for fun," Caitlin would tell me later -- and one ponytailed Kobe Bryant.

The summer before her freshman season, the team went to a camp at Creighton. Caitlin threw a three-quarter-court bounce pass that hit a teammate in the hands. That same game, she bopped down the court and threw a perfect behind-the-back pass. Also in rhythm and on the money.

"I would go back and watch film and just rewind and watch again and watch again," Meyer said.

When Caitlin saw a player come open, or more often realized that a player would be coming open momentarily, look out! The ball was in the air and flying at their heads. This made her teammates nervous, and they'd shut down, which Caitlin didn't understand. Soon she just stopped passing.

"It was hard for her to understand what other people would feel," Meyer said.

Caitlin was, in real time, learning how to use her gift. This is an old story among basketball greats. Magic Johnson threw passes that even James Worthy couldn't catch. Caitlin's task was to see the gulf between her potential and her reality and close that distance. Often she got impatient. With herself and others. When someone made a mistake, or if she thought a referee or a coach was being unfair, she'd have tantrums. Mostly she seemed unaware of how her body language and mood impacted the people around her. She'd throw her arms in the air in disgust, or clap loudly, and waves of nervousness would pass through the team. Of course that cut both ways. When she praised a teammate, the coaches would see that player swell with pride. "If Caitlin gave me a compliment," one of her teammates said, "I felt like I was the best player in the gym."

Meyer started showing her film of her body language, something the Iowa coaches still do. They'd sit down and watch in silence as Caitlin stomped and gestured.

"High school basketball was honestly harder for me than college," Caitlin told me. "I mean that in the most positive, respectful way to my teammates. The basketball IQ wasn't there. At the end of the day they didn't care if we won or lost, really. It wasn't gonna affect their life that much. They just didn't get it on the same level."

Meyer watched a Bobby Knight video in which he called the bench the greatest motivator. That resonated. So when Caitlin would fire some wild shot she could see in her mind but not quite execute with her body, Meyer would sit her. Three times in high school Caitlin got technical fouls and she'd immediately come out, once for an entire quarter. As soon as she hit the chair she'd start agitating -- "Can I go back in?" "Can I go back in?!" "CAN I GO BACK IN?" -- until Meyer relented.

"When I used to get technical fouls in high school," Caitlin said, "I did not want to come out of the locker room after the game because I know my mom would be mad. But if I got one during an AAU tournament, I don't think my dad would tell my mom. He knew my mom would not be happy, but he understood it from a competitive standpoint."

Her dad played basketball and baseball in college. He sees a lot of himself in her.

"To her everything is a competition," Brent Clark said. "I was that way when I was her age. I was really ..."

He thought for a moment.

"Emotional," he said finally.

He wishes his own parents would have punished him more for his outbursts in youth sports. He remembers with shame crying in a dugout.

"I get her," he said. "I can relate. I see a lot of that fire. She's just much better at controlling it than I ever was."

Brent and Anne want most of all for Caitlin's spirit to never be squashed. Her grandfather the Dowling Catholic football coach used to say, "It's a lot easier to tame a tiger than it is to raise the dead."

Brent and I sat at a little sandwich place near his office, where he is a senior executive at an agricultural industrial parts company. He laughed talking about the Dowling Catholic Powder Puff girls' football game.

"What did she play?" I asked.

He looked at me like I was an idiot.


He laughed at the memory of taking Caitlin out in the back yard and watching her throw a perfect pass, a dart, 20 yards on the fly.

"You couldn't have thrown a better spiral."

Caitlin, like most children, watched her parents much more closely than they realized. "They balance each other really well," she said. "The biggest thing is he's always been a constant. I literally cannot say one time my dad has raised his voice at me. My mom is somebody I talk to every single day. My life would be a mess if it weren't for her. She's one of my best friends."

Caitlin led the state in scoring a couple of times, but Dowling never won a state title during her career. Her senior year the team didn't even make the state tournament. She could shoot the Maroons into games and sometimes out of them. But nobody worked harder in the gym. She wanted to be great. When someone got in the way of that, even if that someone was her, she struggled to manage her emotions. An engine as rare as hers threw out a ton of exhaust.

Caitlin and I talked about high school one morning. Both Jensen and Kate Martin told me they didn't think she had any true friends outside her tight-knit family before she got to Iowa. They didn't mean she wasn't popular, or didn't have a group to hang with, only that there was no one in her orbit who was wired like her. Legends like Tiger Woods and Joe DiMaggio often seemed alone too, even surrounded by huge crowds, solitary citizens living in a world of their own ambitions and fears.

"Were you lonely?" I asked.

She thought about it.

"I would say I was lonely in the aspect of no one understood how I was thinking," she said. "I wasn't surrounded by people who wanted to achieve the same things as me."

Letters from college coaches stacked up at her house in those days. Her parents kept them from her until late in the process, trying instinctively to protect as much of her childhood as they could. I think they knew even then. Her dream school was, like everyone else, UConn. She was growing up and learning for the first time about being watched, about reputation. A lot of college coaches watched the same body language sequences Meyer did. Most didn't mind. Dowling's open gyms filled with the best of the best coaches in the country. One absence was conspicuous, though.

"Geno never came," Meyer said.

CAITLIN'S FAMILY, IT'S important to note here, is quite Catholic. She went to Catholic school from kindergarten through graduation. Anne comes from a big, loud, fun Italian family, and if you look in Caitlin's fridge at the apartment she shares with teammate Kylie Feuerbach , you'll almost certainly find some frozen red sauce meals made by her mom or grandma.

Her brother Blake is always texting her reminders to say her rosary and go to the church near campus, conveniently located across the street from Iowa City's great dive bar, George's -- which is where Coach Bluder and her staff go to celebrate big wins. My friend Annie Gavin, whose father is the famous wrestling coach Dan Gable, goes to that church and reports that more Sundays than not, she sees Caitlin in the pews. Blake wore his St. Benedict bracelet to the Final Four last year and did four decades of his rosary at the hotel and the last round in the arena just before tipoff.

You see where this is going.

Anne Clark grew up the daughter of a Catholic high school football coach. What do you imagine she thinks is the greatest, most magical university in the world?

"For a while I thought she was gonna end up at Notre Dame," Meyer said.

Meyer told me that Caitlin remained pretty calm during her recruitment -- except when Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw came to town.

Her list of choices winnowed to two. The Hawkeyes and the Fighting Irish. She'd also looked at Iowa State, Texas and both Oregon schools. The lack of interest from UConn stung. "Honestly," she said, "it was more I wanted them to recruit me to say I got recruited. I loved UConn. I think they're the coolest place on Earth, and I wanted to say I got recruited by them. They called my AAU coach a few times, but they never talked to my family and never talked to me."

Bluder and Jensen had been worried about the Irish from the beginning. Jensen got to Brent Clark when Caitlin was in the seventh grade and told him they'd offer her a scholarship right now. Then she promised to stay away until he was ready to talk. She also predicted exactly how the rest of the nation would awake to the magic of his daughter, which gave her credibility as the years went on.

When Caitlin was playing in Bangkok with Team USA in 2019, Jensen and Bluder flew to games around the world so Caitlin could see they made the effort.

"My family wanted me to go to Notre Dame," Caitlin said. "At the end of the day they were like, you make the decision for yourself. But it's NOTRE DAME! 'Rudy' was one of my favorite movies. How could you not pick Notre Dame?"

Everyone in her high school wanted her to choose Notre Dame. Every year the top two or three students went to South Bend. It was ingrained in the culture. When she went on a campus visit, she wanted to love it. In fact, she got frustrated with herself for not loving it.

Notre Dame it would be. She called McGraw. It was the "smart" choice.

Next she called Bluder to break the bad news.

Bluder was at a field hockey game.

She stepped away from the field and called her staff.

"We're not gonna get her," she said.

Then the Iowa coaches waited for the dagger of an official announcement. For some reason it never came. Jensen had seen second-guessing before. She texted Caitlin's assistant AAU coach to see if it would be appropriate for her to reach out.

"I think I'd call her if I were you," the coach told Jensen.

So she did.

"What's up?"

"I haven't seen anything."

"Yeah, I've changed my mind."

Caitlin wanted to come to Iowa but thought her mom didn't want her to turn down Notre Dame. The AAU coach called Bluder and asked if Caitlin were to change her mind, would there be a spot for her. Three or so days later Caitlin again faced two phone calls. The first was terrifying. She needed to tell McGraw she had changed her mind.

"I'm 17 years old," she said, "and I'm sitting in my room and I'm sweating my ass off. I'm about to call her. She is an intimidating individual. She was really understanding. She kinda knew. She was great. Then I called Coach Bluder."

Dave and Lisa Bluder sat in the cozy basement of a fancy local restaurant. A fireplace warmed the room. They'd just sat down and ordered a drink.

"I can remember the exact table," Bluder said.

Her phone rang.

"Do you have a few minutes to talk?" Caitlin asked.

She committed on the spot. Bluder went back inside and ordered a bottle of champagne. Then she and Dave got another bottle and caught a ride to Jensen's house to celebrate some more. Caitlin remained in her bedroom, still nervous. She had made her two calls, but there was one more person who needed to know the news.

"Caitlin commits to us but didn't tell her mom," Jensen said laughing.

Her parents both call the family meeting that followed "emotional" and say they realized, truly in that moment, that their daughter had a vision for herself more ambitious and nuanced than any they could conjure. She seemed vulnerable and brave, and they deferred to her judgment.

Caitlin Clark was going to be a Hawkeye, and she told reporters her goal was to take Iowa to the Final Four. Some people rolled their eyes, but a bar had been set. Caitlin and I talked about this moment, the way that it felt like part of her search was to find other young women who cared about the game as much as she did. I asked her if this moment felt like the first decision she'd made completely herself.

"For sure," she said.

I asked if this was also the first time she had ever defied her mother, whom she adores -- a critical step on the path from childhood to adulthood. She stopped cold. It seemed like she'd never really thought about it before but now saw it clearly, from the high ground of the life she has built from talent and desire.

"Probably," she said finally.

THESE DAYS CAITLIN and her teammates travel around Iowa City in a pack, a tight-knit crew, as her celebrity pushes them further and further into their insular little world, which revolves around the riverside apartment complex where most of them live. They know everything about each other -- such as, say, that Caitlin's fake name for orders and hotel rooms is Hallie Parker from "The Parent Trap" -- and this past Halloween, they dressed in costumes and climbed up balconies to sneak into teammates' apartments to scare each other. Sydney Affolter nearly had a heart attack when she approached her sliding balcony door to find, staring at her, a full gorilla costume with a giddy Kate Martin inside.

These women are Caitlin's tribe, and they have been since she arrived on campus in fall 2020. The starting five for the first game of her career was the same as the starting five in the national championship game three years later. Monika Czinano, the center, a dominant force on the court, with a quirky Zen off it. "Well, I live on a floating rock," she'd say with a shrug after a tough loss. McKenna Warnock holding down the 4 with physicality and smarts, and Gabbie Marshall playing alongside with power and finesse. Caitlin ran point from her very first practice, while Martin began to shape the whole team in her competitive image, the daughter of a high school football coach who brought intensity to every part of the game.

"What she found is people who also put their entire life into basketball," Martin said.

Caitlin's teammates meanwhile discovered her talent came with impatience and temper. She blew up at practice. A lot of throwing her hands up in the air, stomping off the court and simply refusing to pass the ball to an open teammate if she didn't believe they'd deliver. It was the first time in her life she'd had to play with teammates who would not simply be run over. Warnock got in her face. So did Martin. The coaches pulled her aside. She's open. You have got to pass her the ball. Caitlin's answer, like a logical toddler, left them stuttering to find a response. Why would I pass her the ball when I'm taking more shots in the practice gym?

"I had expectations of them and they weren't meeting them," Caitlin said.

Because of COVID-19, all this occurred in private in the early days. A lot of the freshman year dust-ups happened in empty arenas. Her teammates came to understand that they were dealing with someone like Mozart. She wasn't rude, nor necessarily nice, just a different species. At one point that year a sports psychologist came in to work with the team. She started going around the room and asking the players when they felt stressed and anxious and how they reacted to those feelings. One by one, the young women described familiar symptoms and scenarios: sweaty hands, a fear of the free throw line, struggling with breathing, anxiety about the last possession.

Finally it was Caitlin's turn. She seemed a little embarrassed.

"I never am," she said.

Everyone in the room somehow understood she was being more vulnerable than cocky.

"Stone cold," one witness told me. "It was so cool."

I pressed her once on how she must have seemed to her teammates that first year. "People know I'll have their backs and I'll ride for them every single day," she said. "Obviously there is a switch that flips when I step on the court like I want to kill someone. I'm here to cause havoc. Some of the biggest challenges are I have all this emotion, I'm a freshman and I'm starting and how do I channel this? At times they were definitely like, 'Why is this girl a psycho?'"

The Hawkeyes lost games they should have won that year, still figuring out a way to have both a team and a superstar. The coaches put together video sessions completely devoted to her reactions. They had few notes about her actual play. She simply moved at warp speed, and even her most gifted teammates needed time to adjust. To learn how to breathe her air, to speak her language, to cross dimensions from their old world into the new one she was creating.

"If you see a practice, you might figure that out," Jensen told me once. "You gotta have whatever that is. You gotta be playing the game at Caitlin's pace. It's all processing. She's a half-second ahead."

The coaches saw her learning, too, looking to pass out of double- and triple-teams. Bluder kept telling them to give her latitude. Their main job, as she saw it, was to make sure they never put "her light under a bushel."

One day last year I sat down with Jensen to watch film of Caitlin's outbursts, which they had put together in reels.

"She does a lot of twirling," Jensen said with a sigh.

A twirl, a stomp off the court, slamming her hands into a wall. A reaction when the mistake was someone else's and not often enough a "my bad" when it was hers.

"She's not touchy-feely," Jensen said. "You're gonna meet her where she is."

The Iowa coaches didn't baby their prodigy. After one particularly bad performance, Caitlin caught a full barrage of anger and blame in the postgame locker room. She took it in public, but when she got into the car with her mom, she burst into tears. Not because of the yelling but because she wondered if she wanted something different than everyone else around her.

"Our goals are not aligned," she told her mom.

The Hawkeyes won 20 games and lost 10 her freshman year. They got beat in overtime at home by Ohio State. They beat No. 7 Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament. Caitlin won national co-freshman of the year. That helped with credibility.

"I want her in my foxhole," Martin said. "That's the type of player you want at the end of a game in a battle."

Maybe earlier than anyone, Martin realized that Caitlin's emotional outbursts were a byproduct of a young woman trying to marshal forces too powerful to fully control. Caitlin could take them to glory if they could help her be her best self. They all needed one another. Her teammates' understanding grew. They saw her get the blame for all the losses and knew the ball would always be in her hands with the game on the line. At a team meeting that season, when hurt feelings over Caitlin's lack of trust had come to the surface, it was Martin who rose to speak.

"I got something," she said.

The team fell silent.

"Everybody thinks they want to be Caitlin," she said. "I don't know if you want to be Caitlin."

The women knew immediately what she meant.

"The crown she wears is heavy."

The other four starters slowly accepted their role as The Caitlinettes. They won two games in the NCAA tournament before getting beat in the Sweet 16 by UConn. The headlines the next day back in Iowa would ratchet up the pressure -- Are the Hawks Ahead of Schedule? -- but in the postgame chaos Caitlin saw a familiar face approaching. It was Geno Auriemma. He told her how great she'd played and thanked her for her contribution to their sport. It felt like a victory. He finally saw what Bluder had seen all along. "He could see the greatness in me when I was a freshman," she said, "before everything unfolded when I was a junior."

That offseason Caitlin tried out for Team USA. Possession to possession, shot to shot, she played free and bold. Head coach Cori Close, whose day job was coaching the UCLA Bruins , saw the confidence immediately. "Women have been socialized to not want to take all the shine," she said. "She is an elite competitor who isn't scared to step into the moment."

But every team Caitlin had been on during the tryouts had lost its scrimmage, and after tryouts Close pulled her aside and put a question to her simply: "Do you want to be a really talented player who gets a lot of stats, or do you want to win?"

Caitlin made the roster, led the team to gold and was named MVP. "To Caitlin's credit, she really bought into that," Close said. "She went from being a really, really talented competitor to a winner."

WITHIN DAYS OF my arrival inside the Iowa basketball program, I started hearing stories about The Scrimmage. It seemed mythical the way the managers talked about it, but it really happened, on Oct. 20, 2021, just 15 days before the start of Caitlin's sophomore season.

"I watched it with my own two eyes!" former manager Spencer Touro said.

"The one where I went insane?" Caitlin asked.

"I think she made like five 3s in a row," Bluder said.

"I remember the scrimmage," Kate Martin said.

"How'd you hear about that?" Caitlin asked.

"I would get caught just watching her," Martin said.

"Down 25 with four minutes left," Jensen said.

"I had 22 points in less than two minutes," Caitlin said.

"She had seven 3s and a floater to tie at the buzzer," Jensen said.

"That's when I think she started to expand her game to the deep logos," Bluder said.

"There are clips," Caitlin said.

"It's a video game when she's on," Jensen said as she cued up silent footage from the actual scrimmage.

"I just start launching," Caitlin said.

"This is ... ," and Jensen starts laughing and can't stop.

"Trading 3 for 2," Caitlin said. "They're missing everything."

"... it's crazy," Jensen said, regaining her composure, watching Caitlin hit a 2, a 3, a 2 with an and-1, then another 3.

"I am making one-legged floaters," Caitlin said.

"Another off-balance 3," Jensen said, watching Caitlin grin on the film.

"She would take a couple of dribbles from half court," manager Isaac Prewitt said at a local campus restaurant over a plate of boneless wings.

"Everyone was freaking out," manager Will McIntire said, before taking a bite of his buffalo chicken wrap.

"They're going full tilt on her," Prewitt said. "They're not holding back."

"After I made my fifth 3 in a row, I ran to the bench," Caitlin said.

"You just have to let your jaw hit the floor," McIntire said.

"She's smiling now," Jensen said. "She knows."

"What is happening?" Caitlin screamed to her teammates on the bench.

"Look at the bench," Jensen said as she watched Caitlin scream at them and her teammates screaming back.

"I rarely do that," Caitlin said a little sheepishly.

"Now we're down three with 16 seconds left," Jensen said.

"Coach Abby was dying laughing," Caitlin said.

"So that tied it," Jensen said and the film finally ended, evidence that the birth of the legend really happened, was an actual thing, that none of the people in the gym that day will ever forget. Including a team of young girls who'd been invited to see a practice and happened upon the wildest one ever.

"They were going insane," Caitlin said.

"We're on the other side," McIntire said. "We are all like, oh my god."

"The coaches were just like, what the f---," Caitlin said.

Those few minutes changed the Iowa program forever. These Hawkeyes had been picked by the basketball gods to take part in something rare, something that would define them, that would be a legacy. That season they trailed by 25 points late in the third quarter against Michigan. Iowa dressed only seven players because of injuries.

Then Caitlin started firing wild, fearless 3-pointers. She made one from the logo, and during a subsequent timeout the team gathered in an excited circle around Bluder. Sharon Goodman leaned in.

"It's just like that scrimmage!" she said.

In the final six minutes, Caitlin hit four 3-pointers, scored 21 points and pulled the No. 21 Hawkeyes within five with 1:05 to go. The run stalled and the No. 6 Wolverines escaped with a win, but Iowa headed home in a kind of euphoria. The team could see the future. Weather delayed the team's flight and the players spread out around Signature Flight Service at the Willow Run private airport as highlights from the game played on every screen. Social media exploded. Caitlin Clark had just taken over a game, turning a Big Ten hostile arena into her cul-de-sac back in Des Moines.

The secret was out.

The Hawkeyes sat, just them, in a little pilot's waiting room with big recliners. Everyone groaned when ESPN aired her lone air ball. Caitlin sank into the cushions. She felt it, too. Friends and family kept sending her clips from the game as those same clips played on the three screens on the wall. She'd watched the "SportsCenter" top 10 her whole life and now she was on it. It felt like a moment. Not a mountaintop but proof to each of them that the ascent was real, that Caitlin really was stretching the canvas, exploding the usual logic about what was possible on a court and what was not. Maybe everything they thought they knew about basketball and the confines of 94 feet by 50 feet was wrong. Maybe the sophomore sitting in the oversized recliner was simultaneously breaking and remaking it.

THAT BRINGS ME to the other, inevitable remaking of her world that happened during her sophomore year. Talent like hers comes with a cost and, in our culture currently, that cost is fame. One night Iowa played a home game. Caitlin's parents, like always, drove over and cheered from the stands -- and nervously said rosaries, and screamed at officials, and paced, and switched seats if some bad energy had somehow infected their previous seating pattern -- and when the game ended, they rushed to the car to get home. Caitlin showered and changed and, close to 11 p.m., finally headed from the arena to her car. She was by herself. Two strange men approached through the shadows. Her pulse quickened.

They wanted her to sign some memorabilia.

The encounter freaked her out a little but freaked her parents out a lot, so they got with the university to work out a security plan. Looking back, Brent Clark said, they didn't understand at all what was about to happen. A legend was being born, one of those folk heroes who can only really exist in college sports: Steve McNair, Marcus Dupree, Tim Tebow, Caitlin Clark.

Fans around the conference loved to heckle her. She secretly loved the hostility because it made her games feel like the ones she'd watched on television as a child with her parents and brothers. Bluder said one Big Ten coach shouted at Caitlin during a game, "You're not as good as you think you are!"

"Were you nuclear?" I asked.

"I still am."

The Iowa coaches made progress with the body language in practice, and even if she couldn't exactly control her fiery side, Caitlin did know enough to recognize it in herself. She was becoming self-aware, learning how to maximize her unique combination of skill and drive. One day Jensen pulled up a body language clip that showed her simmering, clearly frustrated, but managing not to explode. There were victories to celebrate. The Hawkeyes won the 2022 Big Ten title and went into the tournament with high hopes, but in the second round they lost to Creighton. Blake Clark texted a photograph of the scoreboard to his sister. Motivation. All offseason, at random moments, he'd send the picture again.

"She eats that stuff up," Blake said.

LAST SEASON, CAITLIN'S junior year, arrived with enormous expectations, and she felt them. The starting five had started two full years of games together, two years of practices and team parties and late-night flights and bus rides. This was their last year together. Monika Czinano would head to the WNBA or overseas to continue her career, and McKenna Warnock was about to graduate on her pre-dentistry path and start applying to dental schools. This was Caitlin's best shot to deliver on her bold claim that they would reach the Final Four.

Before the season began, the Iowa coaches reached out to a performance consultant and author whom Caitlin had studied in high school. Brett Ledbetter first Zoomed with her on a Monday, the last week of July, and they started with the idea that the search for approval can get supercharged by her growing fame and success. Praise is a gateway drug, he told her. She talked about how she'd become addicted without even realizing what was happening.

"It really is a drug," she told him. "You're always craving it."

"How do you process what you just said?" he asked.

"I think it's scary to think about," she said.

"I think it's sad."

Two weeks later they Zoomed again. The topic was "unconditional peace," and she talked about her desire to be calm. She wanted to know which external forces made her feel full and which made her feel empty. Later she'd watch that video back with Ledbetter and find herself second-guessing her answers.

"Because?" he asked.

"I don't want to say the wrong thing," she told him. "And maybe I don't even really understand yet."

"Understand what?"

"What I'm chasing after."

There was a preseason practice on Oct. 15 when she pouted and raged. That went into the clip file. The coaches still prepared video packages of her body language and reactions. But these moments had softened, and slowed, and when confronted with them, her answers showed her growing ability to harness her gift. Bluder showed her one moment from practice when she just walked off the court into the tunnel and vanished.

"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" the coaches asked.

"It's good," Caitlin told them.

She told her coaches that she'd felt herself about to explode and decided to have a second alone, so that she didn't negatively impact her teammates.

"I didn't slam the chair," she told them.

They liked that. She liked that they liked it.

"I didn't throw my water bottle," she told them.

They liked that, too.

"I walked away," she said, and then smiled and added, "I didn't even scream in there."

THE SEASON BEGAN and Iowa got upset on the road at K-State, then lost to UConn at a tournament in Oregon and to NC State at home. The previous year's NCAA loss to Creighton weighed heavy and all she could think about was the specter of failure hanging over this season, and her career, and over the success of her decision to choose Iowa over Notre Dame, and just a lot of other unfocused, swirling anxiety.

"What if we get upset again?" Caitlin thought.

She needed help with the chaos of living in multiple dimensions of time, juggling past, present and future all at once, with tomorrow offering the circle's second chance but also arrows from the battlement walls.

"I'm almost playing this game because I have this expectation of all I want to accomplish," she'd say later, "but I'm missing the moments in between. I've got to find peace in my life."

The Iowa coaches encouraged her to "take off her cape" in front of her teammates. That would deepen their connection, which they'd need to win the close, fierce games that loomed for the Hawkeyes. Once a week, the players met to talk honestly about their hopes and fears. "Those were highly classified conversations," Ledbetter said, "and nothing was off the table. It was remarkable where they went as a group together. One of the things she embraced is vulnerability. The way she viewed vulnerability changed in the course of the season."

He asked her to smile at people first and see how that changed the energy in the room. She did and reported back. Everyone seemed happier and friendlier and more secure. These moments weren't tied to what she could accomplish but to how she showed up in the world with and for others. The rest of the country would discover Caitlin in the coming months, seeing her emerge almost fully formed as a superstar, but her teammates were watching from the front row as she built an interior mental warrior strong enough to support the weight of her talent and the expectations it brought.

Internal motivations to be the best and external motivations to reach records and milestones, to win, to earn praise and approval, overlapped for Caitlin. Each one feeding the other. She'd trapped herself in a perpetual state of chasing, where achievements brought no peace. Her coaches and mentors helped her see the lie in those dreams. The numbers, great as they were, fun as they have been to chase, weren't speaking to her soul, weren't why she played. The encouragement and praise, from fans, coaches, teammates, friends and her parents, were a sign she was doing something at a very high level but were never enough for her to feel as if she had arrived.

"You just want more of it," she said.

"That's not going to make me feel full at the end of the day," she said during another session. "In 20 years, banners and rings just collect dust. It's more the memories."

Caitlin settled on a mantra: Find peace in the quest.

IN THE FINAL regular-season game of the 2023 season, No. 2-ranked Indiana came to Carver-Hawkeye Arena. This night would let Iowa know if it'd come together in time to make a run, and would let Caitlin know if all the hard mental and emotional work she'd put in -- in addition to all the hours in the gym and weight room, where she complained to the strength coaches that they had made her thighs get too big for all her jeans -- would result in a player and a team functioning at the same frequency. She'd worked to find peace, and tonight that meant peace inside an arena that experienced Hawk fans insist they've never heard louder.

Iowa jumped out to a 10-2 lead with a 3-pointer by Kate Martin that ripped through the net so clean and so hard the television audience could hear the popping strings. Indiana fought back. Caitlin hit a big shot and pounded her chest and she stomped to her own bench and bellowed. Her teammates shouted back. The game was tied late when the Hoosiers went to the line with less than a second left and two foul shots to take the lead. Caitlin started yelling at the officials to review the clock.

"Time! Time! Time!"

She alone realized that the officials had messed up the clock. That's the basketball IQ coaches are forever talking about. She stayed calm and the officials went to check the replay monitors and sure enough, she was right.

The referees fixed the clock. Indiana made both free throws to take a two-point lead. The Hawkeyes had a full second and a half to get off a buzzer-beater.

The No. 2 team in the country got in its defensive set.

It was time.

Caitlin rushed toward a screen at the top of the key, the clock almost out, and every one of the 15,000 people in this storied old arena knew she was taking the last shot. Her opponents knew it, too. The pass came in. The clock started: 1.5 seconds, 1.4, 1.3. Off balance but with a smooth flick of the wrist, fingers pointed toward the floor, she fired the last shot of the game. The ball dropped and the arena exploded with sound. The noise overwhelmed the television microphones into a slush of feedback. Kate Martin doubled over in awe and jubilation and Caitlin took off sprinting for the baseline just like in practice.

Iowa won three straight games to win the Big Ten tournament, beating Ohio State in the final by 33 points. Caitlin felt invincible. Her brother Blake told me one night, almost in awe, that his sister has the rare thing that powered Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. "One of her superpowers is taking things personally," he said. "The fact that you're on a basketball court with her, that's a challenge. 'You should leave this court knowing you have no right to be on it. You need to go home and go work if you want to share the court with me and my team.' That's why you see her smiling as she is absolutely dismantling Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game, just cackling as she's coming up the floor with the ball. Because it's so easy and it's just basketball."

The next morning, back in Iowa City, Caitlin got up early and decided to attend her 8 a.m. class. She'd missed a few. Once all the students had taken their seats, the professor looked out into the crowd.

"Is Caitlin Clark here?"

She was sitting in the back row. The students turned to look her way. They started clapping, the room soon echoing with cheers.

The NCAA committee gave the Hawkeyes a No. 2 seed.

THREE YEARS OF WORK with her Iowa teammates, and a lifetime of dreaming before arriving on campus, had placed Caitlin Clark on the biggest stage in her sport with the exact right combination of ruthlessness, talent and desire to make that stage her own. Athletes dream of peaking at the perfect moment and soon the entire country would know what the Hawkeyes first learned in that long ago scrimmage. She wanted her moment. She made her intentions for March known when Bluder subbed her out of the first-round blowout win against Southeastern Louisiana. Furious, she stomped past her coach on the way to the bench.

"Forty minutes, six games," she barked.

That was it: 40 minutes in a game, six games for the championship.

The second round scared them all. The Georgia Bulldogs were coming to Carver-Hawkeye. They played physical SEC basketball. Caitlin told me she hadn't felt this much pressure all season. They'd lost the year before in the round of 32 to Creighton. Blake had been sending Caitlin the scoreboard picture for a whole year. The Bulldogs played a funky matchup zone that caused problems for opponents. Iowa got off to a slow start but found its rhythm. The game stayed close, as close as four points in the final minute. The Bulldogs kept fouling hard, playing with intensity, trying to stay in the game. During a television timeout, Caitlin stood next to the referee waiting to restart play. The ref held the ball, and a Georgia defender stood next to them.

"You're not as good as you think," the Bulldogs player said.

Caitlin smiled and turned to the ref.

"Do you think I'm a good basketball player?"

The referee started laughing. The Iowa coaches knew, in that moment, that she had entered chrysalis stage. She'd become the player she had always had the potential to be. Calm, ruthless. A winner. She simply would not engage with the negativity. She hit two foul shots with a second left and the game was over.

Bluder told her team to pack for two games in Seattle, and then for two games in Dallas at the Final Four. The Hawkeyes were not going home. They flew into Seattle and walked into the hotel where the players saw a DJ booth set up in the lobby. Caitlin pulled her hood up and went up and pretended to be spinning records in a club and everyone laughed.

"Oh my god, this kid," Iowa staff member Kathryn Reynolds said with a wistful laugh. "We were on the ride of our lives."

She grinned on the bus to and from practice and scrolled through pictures of her dog, Bella. In the Sweet 16, she scored 31 in an easy win against Colorado. The managers still talk about that game, which is often overlooked in the run of clutch performances that would follow.

"She just took it over," manager Prewitt said. "It was nuts. She has that ability to flip that switch."

"Can you tell when it's coming?" I asked.

McIntire just nodded.

"Honestly as someone who guards her," he said, "it's the look she gets and the way she starts dribbling the ball. Her mojo. Her body language."

"If someone gets up on her and talks s---," Prewitt said.

"You just get a tingle," McIntire said. "OK. Some s--- is about to go down."

He laughed.

"Usually it's against us during practice," he said.

The morning of the Elite Eight, facing fifth-seeded Louisville, Reynolds, who was basically Caitlin's chief of staff to help her navigate stardom, ran into her after the morning shootaround.

"How do you feel?" Reynolds asked.

Caitlin just shrugged her shoulders.

"I feel good," she said.

Reynolds said she knew then that Iowa would win.

"You can read her eyes really well," she said. "She has it all in her face. She was just in this different space. I remember the peace during shootaround, goofy then focused. It was almost bizarre to watch how comfortable she seemed."

Caitlin believed it was the biggest game of her life.

She walked onto the court and felt no nerves or anxiety.

I must've raised an eyebrow or something when she told me that because she smiled and said, "I swear to God I would tell you."

She walked up to Reynolds.

"This is gonna be a great game," she told her. "This is gonna be awesome."

Caitlin stepped into the spotlight, famous for the first time from coast to coast, drawing record audiences to the broadcasts. In the first quarter of the Elite Eight game against Louisville, she went on fire. Hit a 3. Iowa got a stop. Hit another 3. After a turnover Caitlin pushed a 2-on-1 fast break across the center line. Once there would have been no scenario in which she didn't try to score. But she'd been trying to listen to her coaches telling her that real life cannot be lived in a total isolation. She needed to share. The defender closed, perfectly lured to get left flat-footed by a patented Caitlin juke, but instead she threw a long bounce pass that hit McKenna Warnock perfectly in stride but bounced off her hands and out of bounds. The roof would have lifted off the building had the pass led to an easy bucket. It looked, honest to goodness, like a pass Magic Johnson might have thrown in the early summer of 1988, but it earned the Hawkeyes no points. The cameras focused on Caitlin, who did not react at all. Her coaches all noticed.

During a run in the next quarter she attracted a double-team and dished to a wide-open Warnock for 3 on two consecutive game-busting possessions. Iowa never trailed again. Warnock pointed at Caitlin as they turned and ran back on defense. During the timeout that followed, Louisville coach Jeff Walz ranted and raved and screamed in the face of one of his guards like a toddler, and that's what a confident Caitlin Clark can do to a grown man: turn him into a joke of a child, red-faced, all screams and no plan to make the bleeding stop. The Hawkeyes took the lead and then went on a 9-0 run in the second quarter. Caitlin scored or assisted on every one of the points. When Iowa won she ran to Bluder and wrapped her up in a hug.

"We did it," Caitlin said.

She finished with 41 points. She had 12 assists and 10 rebounds, a triple-double, just owning the game and the vibrating electrons that created the spaces in it. The Hawkeyes were going to the Final Four.

ON THE DAY of the national semifinal against South Carolina, Caitlin watched some video of her pouting through a practice back on Oct.15. She didn't recognize that old version of herself and felt like she'd braved the storms of the season and postseason and had emerged stronger. She walked onto the court and heard the 19,288 fans screaming, faced into that noise like a physical thing. Something almost metaphysical happened to her. Even six months later she still struggled to believe it happened. But when she first stepped onto the court before that South Carolina game, she felt like she left one dimension behind and moved into another. She told herself that she'd worked so hard for this moment and it was now hers to own. Most of all she felt peace in the quest. Only a few rhythm masters ever reach that state of elevated consciousness. Everyone who tastes it wants more, their eyes opened to new worlds of color.

Iowa upset the undefeated, top-seeded and defending champion Gamecocks 77-73. Caitlin scored 41 points including five 3-pointers. She showed heart in the tense moments. Afterward, in a room waiting on the press to come ask her questions, she shared a private moment with Bailey Turner, the sports information director. He described her later as completely calm, empty and peaceful.

The Hawkeyes lost in the title game to LSU.

The LSU coaches had given the Tigers a devastatingly accurate scouting report on the Hawkeyes. Associate head coach Bob Starkey wrote that Caitlin would score her points and there was nothing they could do to stop her. The key was to manage how she scored those points. She averaged 27 in the Iowa wins and 30 in the losses. The key to beating the Hawkeyes, Starkey argued, was stopping Monika Czinano, who scored 19 when her team won but only 11 when they lost.

Against LSU she scored 13 and fouled out. McKenna Warnock fouled out, too. Caitlin scored 30 in the defeat.

She went to a little room beneath the arena for a news conference.

Someone asked her, "What's next for this team?"

She tried not to laugh. This question landed in her deepest anxieties. She'd been trying to face down the fear that nothing she ever did would be good enough and now here was proof that someone else thought that, too. She wanted to make time stop. Tomorrow, with its hope and danger, loomed always. Peace felt more and more like the ability to keep tomorrow out of today.

"I don't want to think about what's next," she said once. "I don't want to feel like I always have to do more and be more."

Months later, as we talked about the Final Four, I asked her if she felt like she knew herself.

"That's a journey I'm still on," she said.

She smiled.

"I'm only 21," she said.

This is a story about being 21.

"You're trying to know yourself," she said, "while you're trying to become this great person."

MODERN FAME IS a radioactive thing that corrodes everything it touches and consumes some people completely. Human beings are designed to live in small tribes, where the most important part of everyday life revolves around direct interactions. That vital way of being is undercut again and again by fame. It really messes some people up. Caitlin has been fighting to feel and be and be seen as human since high school, even as she has strived for things that can only be described as superhuman.

After Georgia and Colorado got chippy, especially when Caitlin would go on a run of logo 3s, her confidant Kathryn Reynolds told her that only she had control of her mind and that nobody could break through that barrier without her permission. She had the power to keep them at bay.

Against Louisville in the Elite Eight, Caitlin hit her sixth 3-pointer and then waved her hand in front of her face, an imitation of wrestler John Cena's can't-see-me move. It was a spontaneous nod to Reynolds' advice. Cena almost immediately tweeted at her. So did LeBron James, who called Caitlin "so COLD!" More people tuned in to ESPN to see Iowa play Louisville than had watched any regular-season NBA game on the network all season.

When LSU beat Iowa in the title game, star center Angel Reese, an intense, talented player who had 15 points and 10 rebounds in the win, made the can't-see-me gesture back at Caitlin as the clock wound down. Postgame social media lit up, some criticizing Reese for showing up an opponent, others saying that kind of criticism showed a racial double standard.

Earlier on Final Four weekend, Lisa Bluder had spoken of the competitiveness she anticipated in the semifinal against South Carolina by saying the game would be a bar fight. After the loss, Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley objected to ways she said her team had been characterized all season.

"We're not bar fighters. We're not thugs. We're not monkeys. We're not street fighters. This team exemplifies how you need to approach basketball."

The moments all intersected in the days after the tournament ended. The semiotics of race and the fires of fighting to win fueled each other. Tough talk between two elite head coaches opened onto difficult public conversations about the consequences of language. And on-court gestures from one superstar to another were interpreted by some as clashes between identities that extended beyond the game.

Even if they could see you...they couldn't guard you! Congrats on the historic performance @CaitlinClark22 and to @IowaWBB on advancing to the Final Four! @MarchMadnessWBB #WFinalFour https://t.co/QvpYDTESwb — John Cena (@JohnCena) March 28, 2023

In her postgame news conference, Reese said: "All year I was critiqued about who I was. I don't fit the narrative. I don't fit in the box that you all want me to be in. I'm too hood. I'm too ghetto. You all told me that all year. But when other people do it, you all don't say nothing."

When Iowa got home from the Final Four, Turner, the sports information director, arranged an interview for Caitlin with ESPN. Caitlin thought the questions would focus on the Wooden Award, which she had just won, but they were mostly about the end of the championship game.

"Angel is a tremendous, tremendous player," she said. "I have nothing but respect for her. I love her game.

"I think everybody knew there was going to be a little trash talk the entire tournament. It's not just me and Angel. I don't think she should be criticized."

The stakes of playing on the stage Caitlin and Angel play on are high, and they know it. "Facts," Caitlin told me later.

When the TV interview ended, she started shaking uncontrollably.

"I'm doing this in my apartment bedroom," she said.

She texted her mom and Bluder and asked how she'd done. Both told her she'd done great.

"If you do one wrong thing your life can really end," she said.

AFTER LOSING TO LSU the Hawkeyes cried in the locker room. "Bawled," Caitlin said. She and Kate Martin hugged McKenna Warnock and Monika Czinano. They'd become sisters. Two weeks of adrenaline ran out, and they awakened to lives that had changed in ways they never could have imagined on the flight out to Seattle. Now they just wanted to go home.

Everyone headed back to the team hotel to meet their families and friends. Caitlin hadn't even taken off her uniform.

She kept it together until she saw her father.

He waited for her in the lobby.

She burst into tears and buried her head in his shoulder.

"You have so much to be proud of," he told her.

"I know but still it's sad, Dad," she said.

She went upstairs and stood in the shower for a long time and let the adrenaline and stress run out with the draining water. Is this real life? She tried to understand what was different. Then she led her teammates three blocks away from the hotel to toast their season. The name of the bar was Happiest Hour, and the staff didn't seem prepared for two dozen very tired, very nostalgic, very thirsty women.

"I don't think you should write about any of this," Caitlin said with a smile, "but I'm gonna tell you anyway."

An Iowa fan asked Caitlin if he could buy the team a drink.

"Twenty-two shots!" she said.

Soon a tray showed up. Twenty-two. That night might end up being Caitlin's favorite memory from college. This group of women truly loved one another and for the rest of their lives when they looked at their Final Four rings, or came to some anniversary and saw the banner hanging in the rafters, it is that love they would remember. And evenings like the one in Dallas after they lost the biggest game of their lives but still had one another. She changed her mind about wanting people to know about that night.

"You can write about that," she said. "I don't really care."

They stayed out all night, sad, yes, but sad together, which was its own kind of joy. They told stories, about being stuck in traffic at Maryland or the shot Caitlin hit against Indiana. They all dragged themselves out of bed in time to catch an afternoon flight back to Iowa, and the team leaders kept doing head counts and asking if everyone was present and accounted for and if everyone was OK. They wore hoodies and sunglasses. Kate Martin cradled a Jimmy John's submarine sandwich in the lobby. No. 5, the Vito -- salami, capocollo and provolone. Caitlin gloated because she'd had the foresight to pack before the game. The players shared pictures and retold the stories. They limped to the plane and flew back home.

THEY WENT THEIR separate ways, and Caitlin sank into her summer. She signed millions of dollars of contracts and flew to Los Angeles to shoot big-budget commercials where a grip held an umbrella over her head to block the sun.

She tried to hold it for herself.

She couldn't believe how much free stuff she got.

"This is why the rich are so rich," she said. "They get things for free. It's so weird."

McKenna Warnock started dental school. Monika Czinano tried and failed to land one of those 144 WNBA roster spots. Kathryn Reynolds got a job offer she couldn't refuse, running a new women's softball league.

Caitlin got gifts for her teammates from her sponsors. Huge loads of free Nike gear including these rare Dunks. Bose headphones. She went to big corporate meetings with her parents following along stunned, proud, bewildered. The PGA Tour swung through Iowa, and she played with Masters champion (and native Iowan) Zach Johnson in front of packed galleries. She practiced for days before her first tee shot, not wanting to embarrass herself. The next morning, she came to an Iowa workout and, as the managers said, "torched everyone."

"It was unbelievable," Prewitt told me.

McIntire just shook his head.

"Hadn't shot a basketball in four days," he said.

"I think she does as good a job of balancing it as she can," Prewitt said.

The Iowa women's season tickets sold out for the first time ever on Aug. 2. Lisa Bluder and Jan Jensen were sitting together when they got the call from the ticket office and both women cried. They'd never ridden a wave like this one, after a lifetime dedicated to furthering their sport. They also worried about the toll all this exponentially growing attention was having on their young phenom.

I asked Jensen once how she could tell when Caitlin felt overwhelmed.

Easy, she told me.

She always hits the practice gym with a bounce, with a smile and an inner ferocity, and when she is drained, it's immediately obvious.

"When was the last time you saw her like that?" I asked.

There was a long pause.

"This summer she was really busy," Jensen said finally.

The Iowa coaches found themselves organizing the entire team practice calendar around Caitlin's travel schedule. They wanted her to be able to go receive awards and soak up the glory. But it all got to be a lot.

"She wants to be a kid, too," Jensen said. "It's summer, you know? This summer was taxing on her."

I ARRIVED A MONTH later to find Caitlin Clark trying to be all things to all people, feeling the expectations of what's next while raging at the inexperience of her new forwards and centers. She always seemed to know when I was at practice and would thank me for coming. I sense she does that with every visitor. I have written about athletes for two decades but I've never, until now, watched someone change from a solid into a liquid and a liquid into a gas. That knowledge made the whole industry of profiling great athletes seem almost silly, because whatever "makes her tick" is deeply internal and unknown, even to her. She was leaving an old life behind and learning how to fit comfortably in a new one. I found myself texting with her father all the time, and he found comfort in his own mantra. Stay hungry and humble. I began to watch her play like the Iowa coaches did, focusing on the moments during practice and games when she faced frustration, to see how she would react.

The coaches and players saw everything. Caitlin getting furious about no-calls in practice. With success has come a raised metabolism. There haven't been any fist fights inside the team but there has been a lot of preamble. Screaming and cursing. This is a championship-caliber team trying to reclaim the form that earned it that status, so that the reality inside the basement of Carver-Hawkeye often differs dramatically from the exterior reputation. The rankings all season called Iowa a top-five team, but Caitlin Clark knew better. Therefore everyone else knew, too. At one scrimmage, Caitlin's anger at the no-calls translated into bad shots -- she often fires up wilder and wilder attempts when she's mad, even now -- and she missed two-thirds of them. Nobody is harder on Caitlin Clark than Caitlin Clark.

"I suck!" she'll bark at herself on the bench.

During the scrimmage she threw a pass that bounced off Gabbie Marshall's hands. She looked over at the coaches in disgust, and they could see the fit coming. Everyone worried that they'd gone back in time to her freshman year. This again? became a refrain.

The season went on, with the public accolades growing, and I kept calling people inside the program and showing up when I could.

"What is the Caitlin patience meter currently?" I'd often ask.

"Decent," I was told once.

At that day's practice, assistant Abby Stamp told Caitlin there would be no March magic without her teammates.

"You're gonna need her," Stamp said.

"Yeah but she missed me on the cut," she replied.

A few days before, Jensen had stood up for one of her bigs. Caitlin had been barking orders, and the coach told her to settle down.

"But ..." Caitlin started.

"Stop butting me," Jensen said. "Throw her the ball."

"Throw it to her."

Caitlin wanted more than anything to go back to the Final Four, because she'd tasted the glory but also the calm and focus of stepping onto the court against South Carolina.

I asked her about the drama at practice.

"I have these new players and I'm not comfortable and they're not comfortable," she told me. "How do I navigate having patience? Giving them confidence? They don't have the confidence of minutes."

She and her crew -- Kate, McKenna, Mon, Gabbie -- had been to war together.

"The amount of huge games we were in last year," she said, starting to visibly percolate at the memory of such beautiful intensity. "WAKE UP! We're here. We're playing Louisville in the Elite Eight. We're playing Georgia in the round of 32 and it's a four-point game with 30 seconds to go!"

Her great flaw in the context of the team, she has learned, is her complete lack of a poker face. If she feels it, she wears it.

"Your one compliment to somebody can give them so much confidence," she said. "It's scary almost how much power ... Because it goes both ways. You get upset with them, they're crumbling."

She switched to third person to mock herself and rolled her eyes as she talked.

"Caitlin Clark believes in them, what more do they need?"

She snapped her fingers.

"I can never have a bad reaction," she said.

She worked hard to get better, to relearn the lessons of the past, which seemed like new problems because of her new and growing fame and the expectations that came with it, both the external ones put on her by the world and the internal ones put on her by herself. There's a John Updike quote I love about the mask eating the face that seemed to apply to what Caitlin was experiencing. The Iowa coaches were hyper aware of that possibility, that the famous Caitlin Clark would swallow the goofy girl they'd known, and they believed at the end that they had all mostly succeeded. Caitlin had managed to protect herself. Her real self.

There were positive moments that reflected all her hard work. Great moments that allowed everyone to dream of March. Once at practice Caitlin came flying down the court in transition. Addi O'Grady was wide open around the free throw line. Caitlin got to the logo and jacked up a 3-pointer, which went in. O'Grady never once yelled for the ball.

Jensen threw up her hands in disgust and yelled, "Ugh!"

Caitlin came right to her.

"The reason I didn't throw it ..." she began to explain.

Jensen cut her off and said that it was Addi's fault for not screaming for the ball and that the coaches were annoyed about that. Bluder and Jensen wanted all the centers to act like Monika Czinano and expect the ball every single trip down the court, to call for it, to deliver once she received the pass. To them Caitlin didn't do anything wrong. The center needs to demand respect. "She can detect weakness," Bluder told me. "I think she likes strong people. People that are good leaders. People who will use their voice."

The coaches also believed Caitlin taking it on herself to explain what she was seeing meant that all their messages were getting through and she was paying attention. During a later practice she threw an errant entry pass to O'Grady. The ball fell uselessly away. All the coaches turned to see what would happen next. They held their breath.

Caitlin made eye contact with Addi.

"My bad," Caitlin said.

THE HAWKEYES EXPERIENCED incredible highs and lows together.

They beat Virginia Tech.

Caitlin appeared on the ManningCast for "Monday Night Football."

They lost to K-State.

Jason Sudeikis and Sue Bird came to sit courtside. During a television timeout, Sudeikis did his Ted Lasso dance on the jumbotron and Carver-Hawkeye rocked in the reflected celebrity. Afterward Caitlin and her family took Jason out to dinner. They sat in the window at Basta on Iowa Avenue.

"He talks just like he does in the show!" Caitlin gushed to her mom after.

One night in February, forward Hannah Stuelke scored 47 points against Penn State on a night Caitlin had 15 assists. "I think our connection is amazing. I love playing with her," Stuelke said.

Three days later, Caitlin went scoreless in the fourth quarter and the Hawkeyes blew a 14-point lead in a loss to Nebraska.

Her coaches worried and hoped.

"I want her to learn how to manage all this," Jensen told me. "The NIL stuff. The popularity. The stardom. I want her to manage that and still love the game, you know?"

Everyone looked to make sure Caitlin didn't lose her sense of wonder.

"She seems like a child when we bring dogs into the facility and she gets on the floor and is rolling around with them and being a kid and screaming," Jensen said. "She goes from one extreme to the other so quickly: 'I'm this unbelievable athlete' to 'I'm this little kid.'"

They experienced success, celebrity, frustration and failure. I met the team in Columbus, Ohio, in late January. Nothing went right for the Hawkeyes. Kate Martin raged at the officials and her opponents and Caitlin ended up in the rare position of being the voice of reason, urging calm and moderation. None of their shots fell. If Iowa gets beat in March, it will be because of an afternoon like the one they had in Columbus. With a minute left I went down into the narrow hallway outside the visitors locker room. I heard a commotion but didn't see what happened. Suddenly the campus police officer who travels with the team helped a slumping Caitlin past me, her head thrown back in pain. An Ohio State student storming the court had collided with her. Caitlin's mom was on a rampage in the bowels of the arena, furious about the lack of security. We all went to the airport and flew back to Cedar Rapids, where university charter buses picked us up to drive back to campus. We parked outside the garage where the players keep their cars for away games. Everyone climbed off the bus -- except Caitlin. She was in the little bathroom in the way back throwing her guts up.

I left her and went to the garage. The first person I saw was Kate Martin. I asked what was wrong.

"Migraines," Martin said. "She gets 'em really bad."

THE NEXT DAY Caitlin and a group of teammates got ready at their off-campus apartments. They changed into fancy clothes and called an Uber and were pulling out of the complex when they saw a whole bunch of flashing lights. As they got closer they realized it was their teammate Ava Jones who'd been in the wreck. Ava hasn't played a minute for the Hawkeyes; two days after she committed, she and her family were at a basketball tournament in Louisville when a drug-addled driver ran them down on the sidewalk. Ava suffered a traumatic brain injury and devastating knee and shoulder injuries. Her father died. The Iowa coaches honored their commitment and she is an emotional member of the team even if she can't play. Her teammates worry over her all the time. Now she'd been in a fender bender.

"Just cancel the ride," Caitlin said. "That's our teammate, can you just stop?"

The cops working the accident tried to keep the young women away but stood little chance of stopping them.

"We're her teammates!" Caitlin said.

Molly Davis pulled up, on her way back to the apartments from a massage. Soon coach Raina Harmon showed up, too. Before too long half the team was standing in the middle of the street. They all stayed with Ava until it was clear she was OK. Some of the Hawkeyes talked to her, while others talked to the police and paramedics. Caitlin kept texting her mother, who was waiting with Brent and me for her 22nd birthday dinner.

Finally they made it. Caitlin's migraine, which she always suffers through without complaint, had blessedly vanished. We sat down and they recounted what had happened with Ava. For the next few hours everyone laughed and told stories. We finished our meals, and the restaurant brought over a riff on a chocolate chip cookie. Caitlin loves chocolate chip cookies. The teammates told Anne what they saw of the incident after the game in Columbus. Kate Martin, they said gleefully, threatened to fight the Ohio State student section. She'd be Charles Oakley to Caitlin's Michael Jordan. Everyone laughed. Caitlin the loudest.

"I see Caitlin on the ground and I just start seeing red," Martin explained.

When the game ended Caitlin looked to find the Buckeyes to shake their hands when all the fans rushed the court. The Iowa coaches started urgently telling the Iowa players to get to the locker room. Caitlin took off at a dead sprint -- "which was problem number one," she said -- and never saw the Ohio State student until they collided. When she picked up her phone, she saw a text from her former football player brother: "Next time explode through their sternum."

Everyone at the dinner table laughed about that.

Martin ran up right after the collision to see her best friend on the ground.

"What happened?"

"I got drilled," Caitlin said.

"A fan ran into her," said Jada Gyamfi , a forward who wears No. 23.

Around 4 a.m., once they got home from the game, Caitlin got a text from Monika Czinano asking if she needed to hire a hit man. Martin sounded embarrassed as she described to all of us at dinner how she stalked around cursing at people and trying to find someone to fight. She was repeating the wilder things she said and then Caitlin started doing her impression of Martin.

"Whatever," Kate said. "I'm ride or die for my ladies."

Caitlin's parents paid. This was their treat. Then Kate sheepishly revealed she'd had a bit of parking trouble when she'd pulled up outside earlier. Her car was, she admitted, parked on top of a curb and a snowdrift. She needed help pushing it out. Jada, Will McIntire and I got low and started to push. Martin sat behind the wheel. We all made sure not to let Caitlin anywhere near the operation. None of us wanted to be responsible for a tire rolling over her foot and ending the greatest college basketball season anyone has ever had.

"Twenty-two is not touching this car!" I said.

Gyamfi laughed.

"This is a job for two-three," she said.

"I gotta get this on video!" Caitlin said.

We all pushed, then leaned in and pushed harder, as Kate spun her tires then caught a little traction and lurched to safety. Everyone cheered, me included, and Caitlin was part of the action, but also separate from it, her life pulling her in one direction and her teammates in another. Finally, she stopped recording and I watched them all go out into the night, still celebrating.

THIS IS A STORY about being 22. Do you remember when you first started on the road to your dreams? That's where Caitlin Clark finds herself in March 2024. She has announced her intention to enter the WNBA draft. Her future has begun, the world she built during four life-changing years in Iowa City. All the things she wants to be are there to be grasped. Her games draw bigger audiences than many NBA games. She is at the epicenter of sports -- a superstar without caveats or adjectives. She isn't important because of symbolic broken barriers but because she steps onto a 94-foot-long rectangle and dominates it. In the month after her birthday, Caitlin Clark kept rising to the occasion. She broke the NCAA women's career scoring record -- the record-breaking shot came from 30 feet, three of her career-high 49 -- then the actual women's scoring record held by Lynette Woodard, who got invited to Iowa for the event and revelled in the standing ovation she received from Carver-Hawkeye. Then on senior night she broke Pete Maravich's men's career scoring record. No human being playing Division I basketball has ever scored more. The rapper Travis Scott came to see her break Pistol Pete's record and posed for pictures with the whole team. Jake from State Farm came. He wore a designer jacket made from Caitlin's jersey. Nolan Ryan snuck in beneath a baseball cap with his granddaughters. It was important to him that they witness Caitlin. The television ratings shattered records. Patrick Mahomes praised her. So did LeBron James. These moments, and so many others, happened in public. Her brother and I texted back and forth during these incredible few weeks when it seemed like the entire country had turned its attention to her greatness.

Everyone around her seemed happy. Not because of records. Not because of what excited the rest of the basketball world but because of something that happened offstage just eight days before she broke the NCAA's women's record. Opponents, beware. On Feb. 7, the Hawkeyes held a practice before Penn State came to Iowa City. The season's metabolism had started to peak. Kate Martin stopped practice to preach about the importance of knowing the scouting report, and the whole team hung on her every word, and Jensen looked over to catch Bluder staring with admiration and joy at Martin's command of the room.

A bit later, during a scrimmage, Addi O'Grady, who had at one point retreated into an introverted shell in response to the barrage of pressure from Caitlin, got down on the post and just knocked one of the team managers on his ass.

This was everything Caitlin Clark loved about basketball. The competition, the aggression, the way that every moment produced a winner and a loser, the willingness to go hard, to risk. O'Grady had won the moment. She'd know what that felt like now. She could do it again. Caitlin ran to her. She jumped up and down and screamed and praised and threw around joyous curses and exaltations. The coaches beamed. This was a team. Jan Jensen cried about it later, she said. They'd traveled the road. They'd put last season in its place and made this one its own. It was February. The doors were closed and there were no cameras. Nobody sat courtside or wanted autographs. Caitlin was at the center of it but not hitting 3s or firing passes behind her back. She was all out in praise of a teammate. She believed.

"YES!" she screamed. "ADDI!!"

These are the moments the team will remember decades from now, when they gather as middle-aged women. Renting yachts and pushing cars out of the snow. Posting up on the block. This is a story about being 21, yes, and 22, but also about being 41, and 52, and older than that. The Iowa Hawkeyes of the Caitlin Clark years will stand one day at center court beneath their banners, with husbands and wives and partners, with kids and grandkids. They know this. And they know they will find themselves unable to describe how it felt all those years ago, when they were young and magic and ready for March.

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