I want to see Brittney Griner in a Phoenix Mercury uniform this summer. It’s not for selfish reasons either.
It means the talk that has dominated many basketball circles this week has been just that, talk. It means Griner gets to become what she’s destined to be, one of the best women’s basketball players in the history of the game in one of the premier women’s leagues in the world. It means we can appreciate her for her skill set and not as some sideshow.
Griner doesn’t need the NBA, even if a certain NBA maverick really does want to give her a shot. She doesn’t need the NBA just because it doesn’t have a W in front of it. If you’ve listened to the national debate being waged online and on cable sports networks, you would almost think that this is a challenge the Baylor standout has to accept and conquer to prove herself.
When you break it all down to a sound bite, or the simple “Could a woman hold her own?” questions, it devolves into something that is at least juvenile and at most borderline sexist. The offer itself marginalizes what she truly is.
This is the kind of thing that happens on school playgrounds around the country. Boys challenging girls to prove they’re better. But why must we compare? Why must we as a society look at Griner and immediately draw parallels between her to the opposite sex? Shouldn’t we just be celebrating her for how she revolutionized the women’s college game and for what she might accomplish in the pros?
She’s been referred to as the female version of Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal or even Bill Russell. Those comparisons are made because we haven’t seen a women’s player who has the ability and athleticism that she does. It’s because she has a chance to change the game in the way those three did. Why take a chance at greatness away, or at the very least delay the start of it, from her purely for the amusement of people who want to see and debate if ‘a girl can hang with the guys’? It doesn’t matter if she can. What matters is what she can do and the impact she can have on a world class league like the WNBA.
Griner has the power to change minds about women’s basketball. She has the ability to impact the game in a way we’ve never seen before and may never see again. She also has the chance to be one of the biggest, literally and figuratively, role models for young female athletes around the globe. So why does she need to play into the stereotypical thought patterns we’ve seen on display all week?
She is Brittney Griner, the NCAA’s single season block leader, the record holder of most dunks in NCAA women’s history, has the most block in a season in NCAA history, most blocks in the history of the NCAA Women’s Tournament, most career blocks in NCAA history men’s or women’s a national champion, the likely No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft and possibly could redefine the sport. That’s all she needs to be. Nothing more, nothing less and certainly not compared to men. Her achievements stand, very tall, on their own.