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A Basketball Player So Good, She’ll Be Drafted into the NBA – as a Sideshow

A Basketball Player So Good, She’ll Be Drafted into the NBA – as a Sideshow

Brittney Griner is one of the best-known female athletes on the planet. Though her college basketball career just came to an end last Sunday, the 6′ 8″ center/forward is all-but-certain to be selected first overall in the WNBA draft by the Phoenix Mercury. Griner is strong and quick, a defensive presence and rebounding machine. Her game resembles that of future hall-of-famer Shaquille O’Neal, except Griner has a better jump shot.

We should be talking about Griner as a unique talent, one of the elite female athletes in the world. We should be talking about her accomplishments and her future.

Instead, we’re talking about Mark Cuban.

Yes, Mark Cuban, the man who never met a camera he didn’t like, billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks and professional self-promoter, has injected himself into Brittney Griner’s story, telling Jay Leno that he’d consider drafting Griner to the Mavericks with a second-round pick. And this has ignited the usual inane questions: can Griner play with men? Could she succeed in the NBA?

This has led the discussion down a predictable path. Instead of talking about Griner as an athlete in her own right, we’re talking about whether women can compete with men in sports. We’re talking about whether Griner could compete with male athletes for a spot on the bench, whether such an attempt would be a landmark for women or a publicity stunt.

Needless to say, that discussion has so far been laced with misogyny and transphobia. The commentary has not been about Griner’s merits as a player, but whether Griner is too “manly.”

The fact is that Griner might be able to play in the NBA, and she might not, but color me dubious that she could actually get a fair shot. We have come a long way in accepting women’s athletics in the past 40 years, but we still have a long way to go. If Griner failed to make the NBA, it would be seen as proof that women are inferior athletes — never mind that there are hundreds of elite male basketball players who fail to make the NBA each year, too. Worse, with Mark Cuban pulling the strings, there’s the possibility that Griner could make the league, but as an Eddie Gaedel figure — on the team not as a player, but as a sideshow.

Once upon a time, women’s athletics were a sideshow. Those days are moving behind us, though. Just two generations removed from Title IX’s creation, women in America can and do compete in sports on their own terms. The WNBA may not be where the NBA is yet, but it’s growing. Players like Griner are going to help it continue to grow. Cuban’s musing that Griner could be a bench player in the NBA doesn’t help women’s sports grow; instead, it emphasizes that women’s sports are somehow lesser than men’s. That the WNBA is just a poor sister to the NBA. That frankly, we should ignore women’s athletics, because men aren’t playing.

That doesn’t mean that women should be barred from competing in men’s leagues. It certainly doesn’t mean that the mere mention of a woman competing in men’s leagues should draw hate.

Griner has tweeted at Cuban, jokingly asking when she should show up for try-outs; if she indeed wants to try to make it in the NBA, good for her. But that’s a decision for Griner to make. And if she decides to simply be one of the brightest stars in the most elite women’s basketball league in the world — well, isn’t being one of the top female basketball players alive an accomplishment worth respecting?

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Image Credit: Feminema

 

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83 comments

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6:26PM PDT on Apr 11, 2013

Ori M. said:

"Good luck to her in her try outs for either one of them. Sounds like she'll beat 'em all."

I wouldn't bet on it.

3:00AM PDT on Apr 11, 2013

Good luck to her in her try outs for either one of them. Sounds like she'll beat 'em all. :)

10:32PM PDT on Apr 8, 2013

Sherri P. said:
"it sucks but to me it sounds like women are destined to be considered inferior to men for eternity."..

I don't understand why you feel that way. Just because women can't perform at the same level of expertise in some sports as men doesn't mean men consider women inferior. If some women would start thinking of men as fellow human beings and began treating them as equal partners on this planet instead of thinking women are intellectually superior to men then we could get passed the negative mindset and begin to work together to solve some of the problems we both have. However, in order to do that those women have to accept that men's perspective on things is as valid and important to take into consideration as women's perspective. It's not men who are at war with women. Men love women and I mean a deep spiritual love not just a physical love. It can begin with something as simple as a woman saying to a man, "you're right" when the facts prove that he is right instead of constantly trying to prove that he's wrong.

8:15PM PDT on Apr 8, 2013

it sucks but to me it sounds like women are destined to be considered inferior to men for eternity...

4:44PM PDT on Apr 8, 2013

Thomas M said:

"Peter "Macho" N: Brittney Griner would kick your a** using a medicine ball or maybe a Nerf Ball for a basketball. She is an outstanding athlete. Your comment about women's basketball (that is women, Peter) and Title IX, (that's 9 not 11 as you stated) is an insult to men and women."

@Thomas M., Don't be so sure. I'm 6'7'' and played forward on my college basketball team so even though I'm older now I can still dunk the ball and if Brittney Griner used the men's basketball she couldn't hit half the 3 pointers I can still hit.

What is an insult to men is for anyone to say that women can play basketball as good as men can play especially if women use the same size basketball that men use.

Be honest, dude. Admit it. The women will still let you in.

11:11AM PDT on Apr 8, 2013

There is no way this girl would be able to score or in general play at a high level in the NBA. There are more guys in college that can't play at that level but are still physically better at basketball than her. Even a 6 foot guard would run circles around her. Face it, women play in the women's league for a reason. If she can play in the NBA then all of the guys not drafted should be able to play in the WNBA and make a lot of money doing it.

6:44AM PDT on Apr 8, 2013

Peter "Macho" N: Brittney Griner would kick your a** using a medicine ball or maybe a Nerf Ball for a basketball. She is an outstanding athlete. Your comment about women's basketball (that is women, Peter) and Title IX, (that's 9 not 11 as you stated) is an insult to men and women.

4:02AM PDT on Apr 8, 2013

Noted.. The size of hands ?

2:40AM PDT on Apr 8, 2013

Brittney should continue until she graduates. The WNBA is not as lucrative as the NBA and by the time she hits middle age she still has to finish college to get into some other career. Women sports at best are only of Olympic notoriety. The other thing is that a career in sports does not mean that one does not suffer intense injuries, one does and when it heats its basically seeking other opportunities again.

12:31AM PDT on Apr 8, 2013

Thanks for these comments. I never knew women use smaller basketball compare to basketball men use. I wonder who makes the decision of the size of ball different gender plays.

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