College hoops superstar Brittney Griner came out officially yesterday. She's always been our #1 draft pick, but her public coming out is just icing on the cake. Here are five reasons Brittney is our #1!
1. Brittney Has Serious Style
Most notably the all-white suit she wore with colorful socks and white Chuck Taylors the night she was drafted into the WNBA, or the dapper vest she wore when she accepted her ESPY. And don't forget the dapper bowtie/skateboard combo.
2. Girl Can Dunk
Aside from her height at 6'8", wingspan at 7'4", and as one of the highest-scoring college basketball players of all time -- male or female -- Griner's claim to fame is that she can dunk. But the fact that she does it on a regular basis is pretty special, since this is something that female basketball players just don't do all of the time.
3. Brittney Went To Baylor
For those of you who don't know, Baylor's a Baptist-affiliated school. The fact that George W. Bush is a fan of Baylor's Lady Bears should tell you something. The college's notice of non-discrimination states that the university complies with state laws on the basis of race, color, nationality or ethnic origin, sex, age, or disability in employment or the provision of services. Buuuuut "The university is governed by a predominantly Baptist Board of Regents and is operated within the Christian-oriented aims and ideals of Baptists."
Aaaaand, "The University affirms the biblical understanding of sexuality as a gift from God. Christian churches across the ages and around the world have affirmed purity in singleness and fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman as the biblical norm. Temptations to deviate from this norm include both heterosexual sex outside of marriage and homosexual behavior. It is thus expected that Baylor students will not participate in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching." So, for her to have been out and have a girlfriend is pretty brave.
4. She's Smart, Confident, and Has An Actual Personality
Brittney Griner might seem imposing at first because she's a tall, tough player, but on the court, you can see that she's having fun, and she plays a very intelligent game that has allowed her to score 3,123 points and 721 blocks over her college career. You have to love the fact that she's not just another athlete who sticks to obvious, rambling sentences like, "We just have to win by making sure we take the ball, play a good defense, while also playing a strong offense, and take to the hoop, then score as much as possible while we have possession of the ball." She's so introspective, her #42 isn't for nothing -- she chose the number as an homage to MLB legend Jackie Robinson, who broke the racial barrier in professional baseball decades ago. And she lights up social media with sometimes funny, sometimes serious tweets, and a fantastic behind-the-scenes style Instagram feed. I dare you to not like this woman.
Here's Brittney talking discussing her sexuality with Sports Illustrated.
5. She's Reviving Interest in Women's Basketball
When the WNBA launched in 1998 after an amazing run of women's basketball at the 1996 Summer Olympics people were hooked. However, the league's popularity has waned, even with remarkable players like Candace Parker, Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore, and Griner's new teammate Diana Taurasi. In addition to the WNBA having its first-ever prime time draft, just like the guys at the NBA, ESPN’s Three To Watch effort with her fellow top draft picks Skylar Diggins and Elena Delle Donne, are making sure that all sports fans (not just women who get teary-eyed at documentaries about Title IX like me) pay attention to these talented female athletes.
One of the best things the league can do (and is in the process of doing) is ending the façade that all of the women on the court are pretty, heteronormative, ponytail wearing, nail polished gals who can handle a basketball. Griner represents a new generation of female hoops stars who don't care if they're not like every other female player who makes sure she wears plenty of lipstick while shooting threes. She, and the league, are embracing the fact that they have lesbian players, who are tough, and gigantic, and butchy, and incredibly talented -- talented enough to possibly play in the NBA.
The fact that Mark Cuban even said he would be open to drafting Griner onto the Mavs didn't even seem like a publicity stunt; it seemed genuine. But the important thing is that Griner is on the Phoenix Mercury, and Suns fans will flock to the arena this summer to see her play. Staying with the WNBA was an important move for Griner, and the league as a whole. The minute a woman starts playing with the NBA, that solidifies tiers of quality between the leagues. Even if some believe the WNBA is the lesser version of the NBA because the players are women, having a woman play in the NBA would say she’s too damn good for the WNBA. Having one of the best players in college hoops don a Phoenix Mercury jersey brings a renewed sense of legitimacy to women’s pro basketball. So bring on the endorsements.
Elena Delle Donne, Brittney and Skylar Diggins