Bizarre chapter plagues brilliant basketball career of Brittany Griner

Having always marched to the beat of her own drummer, Brittany Griner’s career has been defined by both accomplishment and controversy. From not suiting up for the US at the 2012 London Summer Games, to speculation over being selected for the 2013 NBA Draft, Griner always seemed to be maligned. While she may just be understood, her courage in revealing her same-sex preference early in her WNBA career showed tremendous courage.

While she has established herself as one of the elite competitors in the WNBA, another bizarre chapter in her career has unfolded. Griner and her fiancée, Tulsa Shock forward Glory Johnson were both arrested for domestic violence under charges related to suspicion of assault and disorderly conduct.

Johnson’s sister summoned the police after the engaged couple became involved in a heated dispute (with objects being thrown at each other) at their new home in suburban Phoenix. Of note, there were minor injuries suffered by both, including a bite mark on Griner’s finger, although medical treatment was not necessary.

Although Griner did end up pleading guilty to the disorderly conduct charge, it remains held on the condition that she can successfully complete 26 weeks of domestic violence counseling. Upon completion, all charges shall be dismissed. While Griner issued an apology through her lawyer, this is not the first incident in her career. During her freshman season at Baylor, she punched Jordan Barncastle, a player for Texas Tech.

Scheduled to marry next month, before the 2015 WNBA season starts, Griner disclosed to local members of the media that the couple endured stress over wedding plans and the purchase of their home. Last season, Griner helped lead the Phoenix Mercury to a 2014 title, while setting a WNBA single season record for most blocks (129) in one season. Griner may likely face more questions from media about the arrest as the season starts, possibly making this her most difficult season, which may damper the Mercury’s hopes of repeating as champions.

In the wake of all the problems that the NFL has faced with domestic violence, the WNBA is suddenly dealing with such a grim reality. Said reality is that such an incident is a black eye on the game. Considering that the fallout has generated more publicity than most other WNBA-related events, it is a very sad reflection on the attention shown towards the fledgling league.

Although same-sex relationships are a much more public reality in women’s sports, one aspect that has never been given discussion is domestic violence among same-sex couples (men and women). Suddenly, the saga between Griner and Johnson brings this much hidden topic into the forefront, forcing awareness of the matter. In a time when many athletes are just looking to summon the courage to come out,

Taking into account that it is very rare for female athletes to be the victims of bad press, this is obviously new territory for the WNBA. It is up to the WNBA to show strong leadership and speak out on the matter. When Magic Johnson was diagnosed with HIV, then-commissioner David Stern stood behind him at the press conference, showing his support.
Although this is a very different situation, the WNBA commissioner should have flown to Phoenix, met with team officials and hold a press conference discussing what transpired and working towards solutions. Going forward, the WNBA must not ignore this issue, as it would only tarnish its reputation. As a side note, there was not even any news on the WNBA site about the arrest.

The time is now for the WNBA to emerge and establish a program to work on awareness of same-sex domestic violence, through the availability of educational programs and counseling services. It would also set a very important precedent as other sports, including hockey and tackle football, consist of athletes that have publicly discussed their orientation. While it would be hopeful that such an incident never repeats itself, other sports now have to face the reality that such same-sex domestic violence issues could occur one day. Should awareness of domestic violence among same-sex couples increase over this incident, it would be the only silver lining in this otherwise very dark cloud.

United States grabs gold at milestone-filled FIBA Women’s Worlds in Turkey

A common theme throughout the 2014 FIBA Women’s World Championships was milestones. The medal round was filled with plenty of unique accomplishments that added to the excitement of the event. Heading into the gold medal game for the first-time ever was Spain.

Competing against the favored United States, both clubs entered the gold medal game with identical 5-0 undefeated marks. Fenerbahce Arena in Istanbul would be the setting for another dominant American performance.
Maya Moore would set the tone early on as she contributed eight points as the US emerged with a 15-5 advantage. As a side note, Spanish head coach Lucas Mondelo has coached Moore’s club team in China, Shanxi Xing Rui, winning the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association title in 2012-13.

By halftime, Moore logged 16 points while Diana Taurasi recorded seven assists as the United States enjoyed a 48-29 lead. With Spanish scoring leader Sancho Lyttle having already picked up three fouls, it only added to their woes. Despite their best efforts, the Spaniards would fall to the US in a 77-64 victory.

In the gold medal game, Sancho Lyttle led all Spanish players with 16 points and 11 rebounds, along with 4 steals and 1 block. The top player statistically for the USA was Tina Charles, who logged 10 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists for an efficiency rating of +19. Of note, Maya Moore would lead all players in gold medal game scoring with 18 points. In addition, she would post 4 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal as the US captured its fourth gold medal in the last five attempts.

On her way to the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award, Maya Moore ranked fourth overall in points per game with 15.3. Lyttle of Spain emerged as one of the elite competitors in the event, as she led all players with 18.2 points per game. She would also show great versatility by posting a tournament-best 3.3 steals per game.

In WNBA circles, Lyttle is a competitor with the Atlanta Dream. Like many of her peers, she spends her WNBA off-seasons playing abroad. Having won four Euroleague titles in her distinguished career, her most recent win came with Galatasaray in 2014.

Statistically, American players were peppered throughout the leader boards. Diana Taurasi averaged 4.5 assists per game, tied for third overall with Katerina Bartonova of Russia and Cuba’s Oyanasis Gelis. For Taurasi, it was her third career medal for the United States. She would join fellow Americans Tamika Catchings, Delisha Milton-Jones, Katie Smith, Lisa Leslie, Dawn Staley (who was a coach for Team USA in 2014), Jennifer Azzi, Teresa Edwards and Katrina McClain with three career medals.

Brittney Griner of the WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury ranked second in blocks per game with 2.0, while LaToya Pringle of Turkey led all players with 2.7. Like Griner, Pringle was also a first round pick of the Phoenix Mercury. She would be selected by the club in the 2008 edition of the WNBA Draft. Her last WNBA appearance came in 2012 with the Washington Mystics. Pringle was a key factor in host country Turkey finishing with a 4-2 mark, plus appearing in the bronze medal game to Australia.

One of the feel-good stories of the event belonged to Australia’s Penny Taylor. One of the statistical leaders in assists per game, Taylor emerged as a key contributor in the Mercury’s road to the 2014 WNBA title victory over the Chicago Sky. After knee surgery sidelined her for most of 2013, her return to the club near the end of the 2014 regular season was essential. Of note, it was Taylor’s third WNBA title, having also won titles in 2007 and 2009 (also with the Mercury).

Helping Australia to a bronze medal, it was Taylor’s third FIBA medal. She would help Australia win its first-ever gold medal in 2006, while earning another bronze in 2002. A first-round pick of the Cleveland Rockers in the 2001 WNBA, she was selected first overall by the Mercury in the 2004 dispersal draft.

In addition, Taylor was named to the 2014 FIBA World Championship All-Star Five. She was joined by Lyttle and Alba Torrens from Spain. Maya Moore and Brittney Griner were the two Americans named. American captain Sue Bird became the player with the most medals in the history of the FIBA Women’s Worlds with four. In her career, Bird earned three medals (2002, 2010, 2014) and one bronze medal (2006).

Phoenix Mercury look for title to complement regular season record 29 wins

Sensational sophomore Brittney Griner is having the same impact in the WNBA as Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) had in his early NBA career with the Milwaukee Bucks. Griner has emerged as a key reason that the Phoenix Mercury ended their season with a league record 29 regular season wins.

The regular season finale versus the Seattle Storm, one of the WNBA’s signature franchises, saw Griner post 18 points and grab 10 for a 78-65 triumph, providing the Mercury with its 29th win. Her performance was complemented by Candice Dupree, who provided a 16-point output.

Ironically, the former record of 28 wins was shared by Seattle. They posted a 28-6 mark in 2010, which tied the Los Angeles Sparks, who reached the 28 wins plateau twice in franchise history (2000 and 2001). The loss finishes a difficult season for Seattle which saw the club post a dismal 12-22 mark, missing the postseason for the first time since 2003.

Adding to the irony is the fact that the first-round opponent for the record-breaking Phoenix franchise shall be Los Angeles. Of note, Phoenix swept the regular season series with LA, prevailing in all five contests. Last season, the clubs clashed in the postseason as Phoenix prevailed.

The jubilation for Phoenix was enhanced by the fact that the club shot 54 percent from the field, marking the 18th time this season they reached that they shot at least 50 percent from the floor. In the regular season, Phoenix had a 48.4 overall shooting percentage, a league record. The former record of 47.4 was set by the 2013 WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx.

Of note, Phoenix and Minnesota met in the 2013 Western Conference finals, with Minnesota prevailing. Led by Maya Moore, it is highly likely that their paths shall cross again in the postseason. For Phoenix, the ability to dispose of Minnesota in the playoffs will only enhance their standing as the league’s best team this season. Just like the Chicago Bulls record-setting NBA season in 1995-96 that encompassed 72 regular season wins, a championship was crucial to justify their season.

Taking into account that Diana Taurasi, who played collegiately at Connecticut like Moore, won a title in 2007 and 2009, is accustomed to the pressure that comes with winning, she will need to be a crucial leader as Griner looks to win her first title.

Phoenix Mercury to host 2014 WNBA All-Star Game with Griner and Taurasi likely starters

For the second time in franchise history, the Phoenix Mercury shall host the 2014 WNBA All-Star Game. Scheduled for July 19 at the US Airways Center, the game shall be broadcast on ESPN in the United States and televised globally in more than 200 countries. Sponsored by Boost Mobile, the WNBA’s leaguewide marquee partner, the game should prove to be an exciting one for fans. Of note, the Mercury, one of the WNBA’s charter franchises, shall donate one dollar from all tickets sold to the Stars and Stripes charitable fund.

With Mercury center Brittany Griner entering her second year in the WNBA; it is highly likely that a strong support of voting from the hometown fans shall propel her into the starting lineup for the game. Voted as a starter for the 2013 edition, she was unable to play due to injury. Franchise legend Diana Taurasi, a six-time All-Star should also find herself voted into the starting lineup. Other Mercury players with All-Star experience include Candice Dupree and Penny Taylor, who have each played in three All-Star contests.

Mercury stars Brittney Griner (left) and Diana Taurasi part of early publicity for 2014 WNBA All-Star Game to be played in Phoenix

Mercury stars Brittney Griner (left) and Diana Taurasi part of early publicity for 2014 WNBA All-Star Game to be played in Phoenix

As the Western Conference has only hosted an All-Star Game twice (Phoenix – 2000, San Antonio – 2011), the return of the league’s annual showcase to Phoenix displays a commitment towards maintaining the strong fan base that exists in the West. Of note, the Western Conference have won eight All-Star Games, compared to three for the East.

Boasting an attendance of 17,717 fans, the Western Conference emerged with a victory. Lisa Leslie contributed 16 points, while Tina Thompson garnered Game MVP honors. Thompson would score 13 points while contributing a game-best 11 rebounds.

Mercury mascot points to pair of WNBA titles that franchise has won during All-Star Game press conference

Mercury mascot points to pair of WNBA titles that franchise has won during All-Star Game press conference

The opportunity to possibly become Game MVP on her homecourt is one that must surely be compelling for Taurasi. Competing in the 2013 WNBA All-Star Game, it held high emotion for Taurasi, who would log three points in the contest. With the 2013 edition being hosted at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, it was a homecoming of sorts. Having played her collegiate basketball with the University of Connecticut Huskies, she led them to three consecutive NCAA titles. The outpouring of support from fans in attendance was a feel-good moment.

Barring injury, the opportunity to compete in one of the WNBA’s showcase games in front of her home fans at Phoenix, known affectionately as the X-Factor, shall be a tremendous highlight in her remarkable career. Expect a long standing ovation for the superstar that helped bring a WNBA championship to Phoenix.

One of the WNBA’s rising stars, Brittney Griner will be poised to provide fans with an electrifying performance. While she has already made an impact in the WNBA as the first player to make two slam dunks in her league debut, the 2014 All-Star Game should be her coming-out party. The opportunity to compete against the league’s elite on her homecourt should serve as high motivation for an outstanding performance.

In the same case as Taurasi, injuries would be the only obstacle preventing Griner from participating in the league’s annual showcase. With Phoenix serving as one of the league’s most loyal fan bases, there will likely be a roar of approval should Griner manage to accomplish a slam dunk in the contest.

Coming off a season where the Mercury returned to the postseason, fans are excited about the possibilities for 2014. Should Griner continue to reach her potential as a promising superstar, the All-Star game may be the launching pad towards a strong postseason push that may culminate in another title by season’s end.

Images obtained from: http://www.wnba.com/mercury/photogallery/allstar_announcement_2014_15.html

10 Female Athletes that made an inspiring impact in 2013

In alphabetical order, please find ten female athletes that helped to make a tremendous impact in 2013, while advancing the already amazing world of female sport.

Angella Goran, Cycling

Cycling across Canada in hopes of raising funds for wildlife research, she channeled the spirit of other Canadians who have ventured on the road in similar efforts; Terry Fox, Rick Hansen and Ashley Gilbank. Looking to preserve Canada’s natural legacy while looking to educate and provide various education activities on her stops, Goran is a role model to both men and women who have undertaken environmental causes.

Emma Green-Tregaro, Track and Field

While the 2013 IAAF World Track and Field Championships were a lightning rod for controversy due to issues of gay rights, Emma Green-Tregaro made a remarkable statement. Painting her fingernails in the colors of the rainbow as a gesture of support, it made worldwide news. While she was inititally warned it could be in violation of the code of conduct of the world championships, she stood her ground, inspiring men and women of any sexual preference to stand up for their beliefs.

Brittany Griner, Basketball

From the NCAA to NBA Draft speculation to the WNBA, Brittany Griner made national news on numerous stages. While her NCAA career at Baylor did not end on with a Final Four, she graduated as the all-time leading blocker among both male and female basketball players.

Speculation about the NBA Draft sparked rumors that she would become the first female selected. Although it never materialized, she would go first overall to the Phoenix Mercury in the 2013 WNBA Draft. Her debut against the Chicago Sky (which featured second pick overall Elena Delle Donne) featured two slam dunks, the first player to do so in their WNBA debut.

Sami Grisafe, Football

One of the most inspiring sporting stories of 2013 (among men and women), football quarterback Sami Grisafe finished her storied football career in grand style. Having led the United States to a gold medal at the inaugural 2010 IFAF Women’s World Football Championships, she followed it up as the field general for the US in 2013.

Her world gold would be followed up by a remarkable performance with the Chicago Force in the 2013 WFA postseason. Leading her club to their first-ever WFA National Championship, it was a fitting finish to Grisafe’s stellar career. Tackling the next role in her life, a promising musical career, her performance of the Star-Spangled Banner at the IFAF Worlds and at Wrigley Field are pulse-pounding.

Brooke Henderson, Golf

Only 16 years old, Brooke Henderson may become the Tiger Woods of women’s golf. A teen phenom who was recognized as Canada’s amateur golfer of the year for 2013, she was also featured in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd segment. Ranked number nine in the world among amateur female golfers, she would place third at the professional Canadian Women’s Open while placing 35 at the LPGA’s Manulife Classic.

Nikki Johnson, Football

One of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of women’s indoor football, Nikki Johnson used her star power to try and improve working conditions in her league. A former intern with NFL Films and a high school sporting legend in Nevada, her solid work ethic and leadership skills set a positive example for teammate and rival alike.

While her requests for health insurance and a more equitable setting in the league resulted in her untimely dismissal, her efforts are similar to Curt Flood in baseball and Ted Lindsay in hockey. Although she will likely return to the WFA (where she first honed her skills), Johnson is a strong, courageous woman whose principles make her a symbol of admiration and determination.

Hilary Knight, Ice Hockey

While Amanda Kessel had an outstanding 2013, in which she won the Patty Kazmaier Award and led the Minnesota Golden Gophers to an undefeated season, Hilary Knight was playing in the ultra-competitive CWHL against some of Canada’s greatest women’s ice hockey players.

With such sterling competition, Knight not only ranked third in league scoring (first among US-born women), but she would become the first American-born player to capture the CWHL’s MVP Award. She would follow it up by leading all players in postseason scoring as the Blades upset the Montreal Stars to capture the Clarkson Cup. A few weeks later, Knight (and Kessel) would beat Canada on their own home ice to capture gold at the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championships. Featured on a trading card in the Topps Sochi Winter Games trading card set, her star is on the rise.

Yekaterina Pashkevich, Ice Hockey

A former women’s tackle football competitor in the IWFL, Yekaterina Pashkevich emerged as the feel-good story of the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championships. An original member of the Russian national team from 1993, she lived in Boston for several years after the 2006 Torino Winter Games. Making a comeback in hockey, Pashkevitch would capture the hearts and minds of fans 20 years later. As the oldest competitor at the 2013 IIHF Worlds, her acumen and leadership contributed to an emotional bronze medal for the Russian squad.

Winter Venecki, Running

In honor of her fallen father, Winter Venecki and her mother participated in marathons on every continent in the world. Looking to raise funds for cancer research, Venecki’s journey was one of inspiration and hope. Having established her own cause to raise funds, the teenaged Venecki is a great example of the great contributions youth can make to our society.

Serena Williams, Tennis

In a season that saw Williams amass an outstanding win-loss record of 78-4, she solidified her legacy as the greatest female tennis player ever. Her earnings of over $12,000,000 are the highest-ever in women’s tennis history and the fifth highest among both male and female players.

Honorable Mention: Christmas Abbott, NASCAR

As the first female full-time member of a NASCAR racing crew, Christmas Abbott is shattering barriers in traditionally male-dominated fields. Serving with the Michael Waltrip Racing Team, she is a proud member of Clint Bowyer’s pit crew. Able to change two tires weighting 60 pounds each, she paid her dues changing tires for female racer Jennifer Jo Cobb in years past. When not part of the pit crew, Abbott is also a competitor with Team CrossFitInvoke in the CrossFit Mid-Atlantic region.

Honorable Mention: Julie Paetsch, Football and Ice Hockey

One of the most influential women in Canadian sport for 2013, Julie Paetsch helped make history on two different occasions. Competing on defense with the Saskatoon Valkyries of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League, she returned from an injury in-time for the WWCFL title game. Helping the Valkyries to a victory over the Lethbridge Steel, the Valkyries became the first team to win three consecutive WWCFL titles. Of note, she would earn Defensive Player of the Game honors.

A few weeks later, she would contribute to Canada’s silver medal effort at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds. Recognized as Canada’s Player of the Game in the gold medal match against the United States, it would prove to be the beginning of a memorable summer. In late August, she would be selected by the Calgary Inferno in the 2013 Canadian Women’s Hockey League Draft, becoming the first women’s tackle football player taken in CWHL Draft history. In addition, she would score a goal in her debut for the Inferno.

Honorable Mention: Whitney Zelee, Football

Having helped the Boston Militia to a national championship in 2011, Whitney Zelee has emerged as a key member for the WFA franchise. While she has been working tirelessly to help the squad claim a second, her mark on WFA and women’s football history reached unforeseen heights in 2013. As the first player to log 2,000 yards in one season of women’s football, Zelee became a legend in the sport. With several performances of 300+ yards in several matches, her efforts shed a new light on the excitement of women’s football and the growing relevance of the sport.

Elena Delle Donne passes her rookie season with flying colors

Traditionally, being the second overall pick in any sporting draft tends to be a one-way ticket towards a career spent in infamy and unfulfilled expectation. Having graduated from the University of Delaware (the alma mater of Super Bowl champion Joe Flacco), the 6’5” Elena Delle Donne shattered those negative perceptions to become the unanimous selection as the 2013 WNBA Rookie of the Year.

Selected second overall by the Chicago Sky, Delle Donne had some big shoes to fill. Considering Baylor’s Brittney Griner was nearly selected in the NBA Draft, she was the consensus choice to go first overall to the Phoenix Mercury. Delle Donne found herself sandwiched in between Griner and the highly touted Skylar Diggins, who went third to the Tulsa Shock.

Courtesy of WNBA Images

Courtesy of WNBA Images

While it was a remarkable draft class, Delle Donne would undergo a baptism of fire in her WNBA debut. Competing against Griner and the Phoenix Mercury in the May 27 season opener, Delle Donne would thrive under such pressure. Accumulating a respectable 22 points complemented by eight rebounds and four blocks, the Sky would prevail in a 102-80 victory.

Such a solid debut would pale in comparison to the fact that Delle Donne became the first rookie to lead all players in votes for the All-Star Game. Sadly, she missed the event due to concussion woes. Upon her return, she would continue to help the Sky reach new levels of success. Truly proving that the sky is not the limit, Delle Donne not only helped the club earn a berth in the postseason, but its first division title as the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Courtesy of Delaware Athletics

Courtesy of Delaware Athletics

Statistically, she would lead all WNBA rookies in points, free throw percentage, three-point percentage and minutes. Perhaps more impressive was the fact that she was recognized as the WNBA Rookie of the Month during every month of the season, an unprecedented accomplishment. This was complemented by averages of double digit scoring in every month. Of note, her .929 free throw percentage would also rank first among all competitors in the WNBA.

Her greatest accomplishment may have come in an August 11 contest against the eventual WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx. A career-best 32 point output would contribute to a 94-86 overtime triumph, one of the most relevant in franchise history. Of note, she would force overtime in that contest by hitting a three pointer with 4.5 seconds left in regulation. A September 11 match against the Mercury resulted in a buzzer beater from Delle Donne that provided the Sky with a pulse pounding 70-68 triumph.
Despite the postseason disappointment, Delle Donne is the feel good story of the basketball season. Devoted to her family and dedicated in the classroom, she is the true embodiment of a student-athlete.

With an older sister that suffers from blindness and cerebral palsy, she abandoned her scholarship with the University of Connecticut in the summer of 2008 in order to stay close to her and family. Her personal break resulted in a sabbatical from the hardcourt that saw her enroll at Delaware and became a walk-on with the volleyball team, leading them to the NCAA tournament.

Returning to basketball in 2009 as a red shirt freshman at Delaware, she would endure struggles with Lyme Disease as a sophomore. Despite such setbacks, a gold medal at the World University Games in 2011 solidified her status as an elite competitor. Her senior season in 2012-13 resulted in many great milestones. From the highest attendance in Delaware history to a 27-3 regular season record, Delle Donne was recognized as the Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year, the Capital One Academic All-America of the Year winner and the 2013 Senior CLASS Award winner.

After an outstanding senior season filled with many awards and honors as a member of the Delaware Blue Hens, being the unanimous choice as WNBA Rookie of the Year bookends the two periods in her career. Having displayed a remarkable tenacity, maturity and character in her young life, Delle Donne is more than just a winner in basketball, but a winner in life.

Brittney Griner deserved consideration for the 2013 NBA Draft

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.