“To those whom much is given, much is expected.” is a common saying Baylor Women’s Head Coach Kim Mulkey uses when speaking about her team. It’s also a common phrase Mulkey uses when talking about her 6’8" 3-time Big 12 Player of The Year Brittney Griner.
Griner’s incredible career numbers include 3,172 career points, NCAA record (male or women) 731 career blocks, and an amazing NCAA Women’s record with 14 career dunks. Even Stevie Wonder would know this woman is a special gifted athlete, who is blossoming into a basketball legend each time she takes the court. Most would think with all the press, pressure, and expectations that comes with being mentioned as one of if not the best women’s basketball player of all-time would be a distraction.
Not for Ms. Griner. “It’s just an honor, not really pressure,” the 4-time All-American Griner said when addressing the media during the Big 12 Women’s tournament. “I just let all the analysts and sportsmen write and talk about it while I just read and listen.”
A big component for the argument for her being the best ever is not only her individual success but the unprecedented success Baylor has enjoyed with Griner on the court. With a win tonight Baylor would become the first Big 12 women’s team to win 3 consecutive conference tournaments to cap off a second-straight undefeated conference season which has seen the Lady Bears win 48 consecutive Big 12 games. A very impressive feat due to the fact the Big 12 has been widely regarded as one of the two best leagues in the women's game throughout Griner's career.
To really appreciate Griner’s greatness, you have to see her up close and personal just as if Dirk, Kobe, or LeBron were coming to town. Basketball fans around the country have taken full advantage of the opportunity this season as every Lady Bear opponent has seen an uptake in attendance, on average by a whopping 3,642 fan increase per game.
With all the expectations and hoopla that accompany the Brittney Griner Experience, there are three things which stand out the most - her humility, her team-first mentality, and her will to do whatever it takes to get the win above any individual accolade or stat. A fact which is duly noted by all of her teammates.
“The Brittney people see on the court is the real Brittney,” fellow Senior and Ft. Worth Dunbar product Brooklyn Pope said while talking about Griner as a person and a player. “She’s very humble and doesn't put herself above the team in anyway." Dallas Lincoln product Kimetria Hayden echoed the same sentiment, “Britney’s a leader on and off the court and I’m glad I got to play all four years beside her."
When asked how she feels to coach Griner the last four seasons, coach Mulkey, being quick witted as usual, had one simple word “Lucky.” For Griner to feel lucky, she told me a dream she had over the summer has to become a reality. Staying true to form, the dream was based around a team goal not an individual one. The dream concludes with her hugging her teammates while green and gold confetti is falling from the sky of the New Orleans Arena at the conclusion of the National Championship game.
Show me a person who doesn't take their self seriously and who cares about winning over self-declaration. Then I’ll show you the great Brittney Griner, the best women’s college basketball player ever!
Kendrick Johnson is an independent sports television, radio, and print journalist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.