A current college basketball star has bigger hands than LeBron James, a longer wingspan than Chris Bosh, and regularly makes ESPN highlight reels with their dunks, but they aren’t being taken seriously for this year’s NBA draft.
Why? Because the potential draftee is a woman — Baylor University’s Brittney Griner.
Griner has dominated Division I women’s basketball. At six-foot, eight-inches tall, the Baylor center had a height advantage over every defender she faced this season.
The Baylor University women’s basketball team may have fallen short in their quest for an NCAA title this year, but Griner has still left her mark on college basketball, breaking records and setting a new standard for female ballers.
Now, the senior is predicted to be the first overall draft pick by the Phoenix Mercury in the April 15th WNBA Draft.
Bypassing the WNBA for the NBA?
Outspoken Dallas Maverick owner Mark Cuban thinks Griner might have NBA potential.
Before Tuesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Cuban hinted at the possibility of a Griner tryout for his team.
In response to questions from reporters about the possibility of drafting her in June’s NBA Draft, Cuban responded: “Right now, I’d lean toward yes, just to see if she can do it. You never know unless you give somebody a chance.”
Cuban also said he “certainly wouldn’t be opposed to giving her the opportunity.”
Griner’s presence would do more than sell out games and generate publicity for a NBA franchise, it would upend long-held stereotypes about women in sports.
It’s been done before
While it would be historic for Griner to be selected in this year’s NBA draft, she wouldn’t be the first woman to take the plunge.
Lusia “Lucy” Harris is the first and so far only woman to be drafted by an NBA team. She was a seventh round selection by the New Orleans Jazz in 1977. Unfortunately, she did not make the team.
Another female basketball player, Amy Meyers Drysdale, was invited to try-outs by the Indiana Pacers in September 1979 at their rookie and free agent camp. Not only did she not make the roster, her appearance at try-outs was largely considered a publicity stunt.
“She’s a post player, she’s 6-8 but with a small frame compared to a man’s frame at that position,” Meyers Drysdale told USA Today. “I’m looking forward to whatever she decides.”
This will likely be a huge year for the WNBA, with Griner and fellow senior all-stars Skylar Diggins (Notre Dame) and Elena Delle Donne (Delaware) topping the list WNBA draft prospects.
If Griner were to compete for spots in both the women’s league and the NBA it could only generate positive publicity for both.
What sets her apart?
Griner doesn’t weigh as much as male players in her height range, and it’s unclear how much “bulking up” she is capable of, but until she is given a shot to prove herself with alongside men we can only speculate about her potential as an NBA player.
Furthermore, it is more than her physical attributes that set Griner apart. The height certainly helps, but without the skill, work ethic, and knowledge of the game, Griner would just be tall and imposing (Manute Bol anyone?) but not regarded by many as arguably the best female to ever play the game.
Scoring 3,283 career points, second highest all time for women, blocking more shots than any female college player ever (averaging 4.1 per game), and dunking a record-setting (for women) 18 times in her career, usually while being double or triple-teamed, Griner’s record speaks for itself.
“I’ve run out of adjectives to describe Brittney Griner,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said following the 2013 season. “Brittney Griner, after winning the national championship last year, should have erased any doubt in people’s minds as the greatest to ever play the game.”
Haters and fans weigh in
“#GrinerNBA Griner can not compete with NBA players.. She may look like a man but can’t play like one,” one tweet read yesterday.
ESPN tweeted Cuban’s comments and added the hashtag #GrinerNBA.
Ann Meyers Drysdale told USA Today that Griner’s greatest challenges would be off the court.
“It would be the media, what people are tweeting, web sites. Even now they’ve questioned her gender,” she said. “Why are people so mean to her? She’s a great kid.”
Follow Carrie Healey on Twitter @CarrieHeals.