Baylor freshman will dunk in your face, send you the poster


The first time I was exposed to a woman dunking was 2004. That year, Candace Parker won the McDonald’s All-American Game Dunk Contest, defeating men’s players like J.R. Smith (who would go on to participate in the NBA dunk contest). It was a great day for women’s athletics. I thought I had just seen something that would revolutionize women’s basketball. Six years later and the revolution is here, standing 6 feet 8 inches with an 86-inch wingspan and ups to go with it. Meet Baylor University first-year Brittney Griner. She is certainly televised.

Let’s get the obvious point out of the way: Ms. Griner can dunk. More importantly, the Baylor first-year hasn’t become the biggest thing in women’s college ball just by dunking because honestly, dunking in the women’s game has become old news. Georgeann Wells, the first woman to dunk in an NCAA game, rocked the rim way back in 1984. Lisa Leslie of the Los Angeles Sparks was the first professional woman to dunk: in 2002: and since then five other WNBA players have dunked in games. Candace Parker followed her McDonald’s win with a stellar career at the University of Tennessee that included several dunks.

What makes Brittney Griner so revolutionary then is not that she is able to dunk, but rather the style with which she is able to dunk. Most of the aforementioned women’s dunks came on breakaways where the player had a long running start against little to no defense, and most of them were simple one-handed slams that barely crested the rim. Ms. Griner can dunk with one hand. Or two hands. Without a running start. She can also drop step dunk, which requires her to dunk practically flat-footed. Did I mention the 360s?

Besides her obvious physical gifts of stature, reach and vertical, Brittney also has a grace and balance to her movements that allows her to maximize those gifts. She has everything a coach could want from a post player: size, coordination, athleticism and a soft touch around the basket. This year she has averaged 18.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and a staggering 6.4 blocks per game. Her defensive play is probably even more valuable than her offensive contributions: Her propensity for blocking and altering shots has invited comparisons to NBA legend Bill Russell. Did I mention she didn’t start playing basketball until she was a sophomore in high school?

The young lady from Houston’s meteoric rise in the basketball world has not been perfect, as she was suspended from two games for an on-court altercation on March 3. Griner was fouled by Texas Tech’s Jordan Barncastle and retaliated by punching the offending player in the face, breaking Barncastle’s nose and earning herself an immediate ejection.

When Ms. Griner returned to the court several days later, she was timid, an unfortunate quality in a shot-blocker. With the NCAA tournament around the corner, Griner had to regain her form or Baylor stood little chance of advancing. Luckily for the Bears, the pressure and excitement of March Madness has been exactly the motivation Brittney needed.

She had 18 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in a 14-point win over Fresno State in the first round, then posted 14 blocks in a 16-point win over Georgetown. In the Sweet 16 Baylor faced traditional powerhouse Tennessee. Griner had one of her best games ever against Candace Parker’s alma mater, going for 27 points, seven rebounds and 10 more blocks.

Then, on Monday, Brittney Griner had her own magic March Madness moment against Duke. Ms. Griner hit a late one-handed jumper to push Baylor past Duke 51-48, sending the Lady Bears to the Final Four.

Brittney finished the game with 15 points, 11 rebounds and nine blocks, just missing out on a triple double while breaking the women’s NCAA tournament record for blocks. She already owned the regular season record. If she is going to live up to Bill Russell’s legacy: he won 11 NBA championships in 13 years: she will have to keep this streak of wins going against either Florida State University or the juggernaut that is the University of Connecticut, winners of their last 75 games. That win streak is probably weighing on the minds of the Lady Bears, but I doubt if its as traumatizing as the damage Brittney Griner has been doing to college basketball rims all year.