Why Brittney Griner is the Wilt of women’s basketball

By: Kels Dayton

If you are one of those people, the so-called basketball fans who think the women’s game is uninteresting, bland or boring, Brittney Griner is here to bring you to Jesus.

She is a walking, breathing legend, a beast out of a parable whose physique and talent is unprecedented.

Brittney Griner towered over UConn's 6-5 center Stefanie Dolson (AP Photo/Jessica Hill).

Brittney Griner towered over UConn’s 6-5 center Stefanie Dolson (AP Photo/Jessica Hill).

Her impact on the game will eventually rival any woman who has come before her. In fact, Brittney Yvettte Griner deserves full name treatment because, like Michael Jeffrey Jordan or Larry Joe Bird, her name is changing the course of basketball history. She is the first of her kind, and there may never be another player quite like her.

By now, you’ve heard about Griner’s dominance. You’ve seen her highlights on ESPN. You’ve marveled at the way she towers over her peers like Gulliver in the land of the Lilliputians. You probably know that she is the reigning National Player of the Year, a dead-lock for the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft, and the seminal reason why the Baylor Lady Bears are the defending national champions.

But until you see her play in person, it’s like that old MTV show “Diary.” You think you know, but you have no idea.

Put it this way…Brittney Griner is the Wilt Chamberlain of women’s basketball.

I had a front-row seat to see her when the top-ranked Lady Bears rolled into the XL Center in Hartford on February 18 to take on No. 3 Connecticut. (In other news, this job is awesome). There aren’t many players who can keep the prodigious Geno Auriemma and his Huskies from the pinnacle of the sport, but Griner is one of them.

She’s 6-8, with the athleticism of a guard and an un-blockable shot. Her arms stretch so long that she made UConn center Stefanie Dolson (who’s 6-5) look like a child reaching for the cookie jar, trying to get a hand in her face.

Griner’s touch is smoother than Bailey’s on a Friday night, and she’s money from anywhere free-throw line extended. She is every bit a physical specimen as LeBron James or Kevin Durant; an athletic marvel with transcendent size and skill.

In the post, Griner can shake and bake like a female Hakeem. She glides across the court like an electric football player, cruising to her spot without any resistance. It’s like a video game, where the physics are fuzzy but her position on the floor is predetermined.

Her game isn’t without flaws. She can be awkward with the ball. She’s so thin and wiry that she’s often pushed around. And perhaps most importantly, Griner’s frame isn’t built for maneuverability. It’s hard for her to run up and down the floor; she can’t easily break stride or to shift into high gear.

On one fast break, Griner coasted down the court in cruise control, unable to catch up as point guard Odyssey Sims barreled towards the basket. Finally, Sims pulled back and waited for Griner to coast by, before dishing off a beautiful lead pass and helping her draw the foul.

Griner struggled with double teams and traps in the first half against UConn, and she had just four points at halftime. But like any transcendent star, Griner owned the game in the second half. She torched Dolson for 21 points, finishing with 25, 9 boards and 2 blocks. She also became the eighth woman in NCAA history to score 3,000 career points when she knocked down two free throws with 1:05 left.

Her Lady Bears won the game, 76-70, and treated their conquest like business as usual.

“It’s not going to be a game that we get on the plane and celebrate we just beat UConn,” said Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey. “It gave us a gauge of what to expect. It will help improve his team and help improve my team.”

Griner just sat there and smiled.

People will complain about women’s basketball. They’ll talk about the lack of parity, the dearth of athleticism and exciting plays.

Those people have never seen Brittney Yvette Griner play.

The Wilt of the women’s game is living, breathing and playing at her zenith right now.

And it couldn’t be more fun to watch.

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