For the entire controversy surrounding Canadian born player Anthony Bennett being selected first overall in the 2013 NBA Draft, an even bigger controversy was evident. The fact that not one team took a chance on selecting Brittany Griner shows that women are not yet welcome in the domain of men’s sports.
While Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had discussed the possibility of selecting her in the second round, the Mavs draft was defined by wheeling and dealing. Their first round pick Kelly Olynyk was traded to Boston, while second round pick Mike Muscala went to Atlanta.
As the one owner who is not afraid to stand up to the NBA and challenge convention, Mark Cuban’s legacy in Dallas would have been strengthened by acquiring Griner. It would have been a move that could have made easily created a whole new group of fans for the franchise. Instead of pushing the envelope and taking a risk, the Dallas franchise exchanged draft picks as if they were trading cards.
While many second round picks in NBA Draft history tend to not have long careers, was taking a chance on Griner not worth the gamble? Players that were born in Montenegro, France, Brazil, Finland, Iran and Latvia were selected in the second round this year.
Since the 1999 NBA Draft, only seven second-round selections either played in an NBA All-Star Game or were All-Star selections at season’s end. The most famous was Manu Ginobili (drafted in 1999), followed by Michael Redd (2000), Carlos Boozer and Mehmut Okur (2001), Carlos Boozer (2002), Mo Williams (2003) and Marc Gasol (2007).
When considering how many NBA teams have endured continuous losing seasons, an individual like Griner would sell tickets, increase TV rating and garner worldwide media attention. Standing at 6’8” with a shoe size of 17 (men’s), Griner has all the potential to bolster any NBA roster’s bench.
Despite the criticism that she is only 200 pounds and may have difficulty competing with larger men, it is a weak excuse. Whether it be as a small forward or a shooting guard, Griner is physically capable of competing. Ginobili is 6’6” and 205 pounds, and he is an invaluable component of the San Antonio Spurs.
In her junior season with the Baylor Golden Bears, Griner led the team to an undefeated record of 40-0 (the most wins in any NCAA basketball season). In addition, she is the first NCAA basketball player (men or women) to score 2000 points and have 500 blocked shots. How many of the 2013 NBA second round picks boast such numbers?
Although she was selected first overall by the Phoenix Mercury in the 2013 WNBA Draft, and the league needs her to boost attendance, she was meant to play on a bigger scale. Her WNBA debut, a 102-80 loss to the Chicago Sky on May 27, resulted in 17 points, eight rebounds and two dunks. Of note, she only played in the second half of the contest.
With a commitment to compete this winter for the Zhejiang Golden Bulls, the odds of pursuing a free agent opportunity with the NBA are quickly fading. As such, NBA fans are potentially being cheated of their opportunity to witness a female competitor make basketball history.
Physically and statistically, she was worthy of serious consideration in the 2013 edition of the NBA Draft. While she was also drafted by the legendary Harlem Globetrotters on June 25, 2013, she declined the offer.
As the all-time leading shot blocker in NCAA history with 736 (along with 18 dunks to rank first among all NCAA women’s players), Griner is truly the one that got away. With this being the final draft in the legendary tenure of NBA Commissioner David Stern, the drafting of Griner would have represented a history-making moment that could have ended his legacy on a significant note.