Britney Griner and the WNBA vs. the World

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Whether Britney Griner can play in the NBA successfully is NOT really the point.

In several interviews and statements since Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks (among other things), supposedly offered her a chance to play for his NBA team this upcoming season, the All-World Baylor basketball player has stated her willingness to bang inside against the boys.

Ahem. I should say men. Big, powerful men.

There are so many things wrong with this situation, I don’t even know where to begin.

Cuban doesn’t really WANT her to start for his team next season, and even if he were to use a 1st rounder on her (which he won’t), there is a 0 percent chance that she would get her way like she has her entire collegiate career so far. It’s not hard to see that Cuban is just looking for a PR boost, strutting his peacock feathers in front of the national spotlight.

I mean it’s not like it’s out of character, but it’s still pretty low, even for him.

Nor am I saying that Griner should straight-faced refuse the invitation to play in the best basketball arena in the world. I just don’t see this as the giant all-things-equal opportunity that opens the floodgates for women to play in the NBA.

She’s just not in a position to make a move that warrants a high draft pick, which is just another way of saying she’s going to be successful at her given position. I just don’t see her being able to post up any of the dominate bigs in the league, whether it’s Roy Hibbert, Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, or even Tyler Hansbrough.

On second thought maybe she could post up Hansbrough.

This job offer is like the ball of hard candy at your grandparents house, all sticky and covered in dust and lint from years of sitting in a fancy glass serving dish in the sun. Nobody is ever going to eat any, that’s a given. But when your grandma asks whether you’d like a sweet for being such an amazing grandchild, it’s only polite for you to grit your teeth, stifle a shudder, and pretend like you are touched to the bottom of your heart for the offer.

And quickly sneak out the backdoor as soon as humanly possible.

Ms. Griner is a great basketball player, perhaps even one of the all-time best women’s basketball players in NCAA history. With her height and athleticism, I’m sure she could at least compete for a starting job in the NBA. If not for Dallas, then one of the other struggling cubs like New Orleans or Charlotte.

It’s not like she can play worse than Anthony Davis (so far), or Greg Oden, or the guy who filled in for Kevin Love when he was out with a broken hand. Oh, and JaVale McGee prior to ┬áthe Denver trade.

Facts are facts. If someone is going to break the stigma of a female playing in the regular NBA, it’s not going to be the biggest, tallest or strongest woman to ever play college ball. The musculature, the weight difference, the physicality of the men’s game, these are things that are real challenges that the average female player is not going to be able to overcome through sheer strength or speed.

Luckily there are many other ways to succeed in the NBA.

Does anyone really think that Griner is going to challenge LeBron James for an entire game, keeping him out of the paint, pushing him around, blocking his step back jump shot.

How about Kevin Durant’s sweet stroke from 3-point land, is her length going to keep him from jumping 3 feet in the air and knocking down shots in her face?

These are just average situations that would challenge her on a daily basis, things she would have to be able to handle if she’s going to continue to play the Center/Power Forward position.

This is what I think.If women are ever going to really challenge for spots on an NBA roster, it’s going to take quickness, agility, speed, ballhandling skills and an extremely high basketball IQ. Women like Maya Moore, around 6 ft and 175 lbs, could arguably be more than a match for many of the smaller point guards that continue to thrive in modern men’s basketball.

(Just in case you’ve never heard of her, Moore is at LEAST as heralded and decorated as Griner hopes to be. She’s won a championship with nearly every team she’s ever played for, at UConn, in Euroleague, in China, with the WNBA Lynx, in high school, and of course in the Olympics last year.)

For example, Heat PG Mike Bibby is 6 ft 2 in and close to 190 lbs. That hasn’t stopped him from being efficient and effective against much larger and more imposing competition. Mugsy Bogues (did I mention he’s a Baltimore native? I just had to point that out.) was only 5 ft 3 in, 141 lbs and yet managed to become a star while playing 16 seasons in the NBA. Oh, and he blocked shots and stole balls routinely, contrary to what logic dictates.

Steve Nash (6’3″ 178 lbs), Chris Paul (6’0″ 175 lbs), the list of NBA players not 7 ft or 250 lbs goes on and on. As big and dominating as Griner is at the highest level of collegiate women’s basketball, she would be sidelined as only another “big” in a game filled with men of equal or larger stature.

My point is that size and strength isn’t the only way men, or women for that matter, can find a niche position in the NBA. Even a bench player such as Mike Miller or even Ray Allen at this point in his career can be of great benefit to his team, and still make an annual salary that far exceeds that of the average doctor, lawyer or successful stockbroker.

If you’ve ever stopped to watch D-I or professional women’s basketball, there are certain truths that can be gleaned by even the most casual of fans.

1. Highlight reel dunks are going to be a rarity rather than a given during the course of an entire game. (Unless your Britney Griner.)

2. Strategy actually plays an important part of every single regular season game, on offense and defense. Oftentimes an exceptional specimen such as the human dunk machine, Clippers F Blake Griffin, can take over an entire game by himself. There’s not much strategy or teamwork necessary to keep Lob City churning along. That’s not opinion, that’s just the plain, naked truth.

Women on the whole cannot use their overwhelming athleticism to completely bypass the opponents gameplan, and thus require a higher average basketball IQ to compete on a regular basis.

If their bodies could hold up over the course of a brutal 82 game regular season, I don’t see why they couldn’t be an asset at the guard position. We’re not talking about muscling out defenders in the paint or fighting for offensive rebounds here.

If women can accurately pass the ball to teammates while being able to cut around defenders to the basket with fine dribbling skills, who says it’s impossible for there to be a female NBA world champion? A female all-star point guard.

3. I know this isn’t exactly on topic but there’s something about the way women shoot from behind the arc that just looks a little awkward.

Don’t tell me you don’t notice when there’s an audible grunt and what looks like a ton of effort to make the ball travel an extra 5 to 10 feet to the basket. I mean is it really that much more difficult?

And it’s not just the effort that makes it look odd, it’s also the trajectory that seems to be much higher than in the men’s game. Hasn’t anyone told them that the higher the shooting angle, the more distance the ball has to travel before it gets to the basket?

In no way am I saying that women are less accurate than their male counterparts. I just think they make it look more difficult than it really is. I also realize that the game of basketball doesn’t come to how your shot looks but it’s not like they shoot like that from anywhere else on the court.

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