A Revealing Weekend for Griner
Bristol, Conn. – Baylor’s Brittney Griner has been billed as a lot of things. The new face of the WNBA. A game-changing prospect. The most dominant force in all of women’s basketball.
She's also still a kid.
At 22-years-old, a noticeably nervous Griner revealed to the nation, after being selected as the No. 1 pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm, just how green the perceivably unflappable superstar really is. Virtually speechless during an interview with ESPN’s Holly Rowe after she was selected – despite the fact that her status as No. 1 pick was never in question – and visibly star struck earlier in the day when ESPN cameras caught her meeting X-Games legend Tony Hawk, her facade began to disappear.
"The real Brittney has definitely come out,” Griner said. “Earlier today, shedding tears, crying, just goofing off, being a big kid. I have a lot of personality. I got speechless today and couldn’t talk, and you know, everybody just thinks I'm this hard person from the way I play on the court or I'm just a certain way, but I'm just the biggest kid.”
To those that only know her by her measurables and her aggressive style of play, this may come as a surprise.
“I’ve had a lot of people come up to me this weekend and during this whole experience and tell me 'you are a kid'' and I'm like 'yes, I am',” Griner said with a laugh. “I'm just a kid having fun and just soaking it in right now.”
Griner’s personality was also reflected in her outfit. The NCAAs all-time leader in blocked shots accentuated her white suit jacket with a gold watch and a pair of orange, blue and green argyle socks. And then there was the nail polish – bright orange – for the Mercury, of course.
The juxtaposition of the Griner that walked the halls of ESPN excitedly congratulating other draftees with the fearsome player you see on the court is quite stark. It’s also refreshing. Refreshing to see a transcendent female athlete so comfortable with who she is.
And, given that she is now a headliner among her peers, Griner hopes that she’ll be able to instill that self-worth in others.
What would be her message?
“Just never backing down from a challenge, always embracing your own image,” Griner said. “I'm a different player. I'm a different person -- large feet, big hands. I don't have a soft voice. People say I have a deep voice, and yeah, I do. I'm just so comfortable with it and if I can just give that back to the younger generation and younger girls, and younger guys that are different as well. Anybody that's different, be who you are. You never want to change that.”
So who is Brittney Griner when she’s not playing above the rim?
“When I'm not playing basketball I could be doing a lot of things,” Griner said. “Honestly, I could sit on the couch, kick my feet up, play some video games -- some Modern Warfare. I used to go longboarding -- not anymore. Just go out on trails, go walk trails. I'll be out in water, canoeing, kayaking, hunting, I could go fishing. I do all that. Shoot, I can go out and just go mudding.
I'm a country girl, I'll go climb a tree.”
Luckily for Griner, she’s been told that Phoenix will afford her plenty of options for outdoor activity. It will also offer her a chance for some great team basketball indoors. With a roster that already includes stars such as Diana Taurasi, Penny Taylor, DeWanna Bonner and Candice Dupree, many, including ESPN Analyst Rebecca Lobo, think the Mercury have become the favorite to win the WNBA title with the addition of Griner.
"It's a big expectation, but definitely one where I can see why she says that,” the three-time All-American said. “We're kind of like the Miami Heat of the women's league.”
That kind of success – and that kind of talk -- will only make Griner even more visible, though that’s normally not a problem for her. The 6-foot-8 Houston native was not hard to spot on the ESPN campus Monday night, having at any time up to 15 media members or other officials following her every move.
It was an incredibly long day for Griner – one that started before 8 a.m. and included appearances all over ESPN’s family of networks and continued past 10:45 p.m. as she went to do one last interview – but all the while she remained in good spirits.
As she walked up a flight of stairs during one of her loops around campus, Griner – who consistently brisked past her entourage because of her long strides -- looked back and chided her army of trailers.
“Hurry up, slow pokes,” she joked.
Yes, she may still be a kid.
But everyone else is still just trying to play catch up.