Every generation or so produces a rare talent coupled with a rare skillset and unmatched size and basketball IQ. Six centuries ago, Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, featuring a man with outstretched arms, depicted his idea of the ideal male proportions. Part of the text below Da Vinci’s drawing translated to “The length of a man’s outspread arms is equal to his height.” (Jay Bilas would call his measurements pedestrian.) Standing 6’8’’, with a 7’4” wingspan and 9’2” standing reach, Brittney Griner is the Vitruvian Woman.
There haven’t been many female ballers who can boast the same measurables as Griner (although Javale McGee’s sister, Imani McGee-Stafford, comes close). There haven’t been any with her athleticism. She’s in her own weight class. While NBA search teams continue scouring for the next Jordan while simultaneously relegating the low post center to the cobweb filled attics of our memories, the center position is alive and kicking in the women’s division.
If you’re looking for parity, turn on men’s hoops. Griner is towering over the competition on the ladies side. Griner has won 65 of her past 66 games as a Lady Bear and her collegiate dominance is putting her in the conversation as one of the greatest individual players in women’s hoops history. Not only does she loom over her competition, she combines her size with a diverse skillset and coordination.
“I didn’t see Wilt Chamberlain play,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey told ESPN The Magazine after Griner’s freshman season. “But I’ve heard he was that kind of—what’s the word—revolutionary. I’m talking about her body, her structure, her ability to play above the rim. We’ve never seen the likes of her before."
Chamberlain was the NBA’s original Vitruvian Man before the explosion of seven-footers. Likewise, Brittney Griner is Lady Wilt.
Despite making an oral commitment to Baylor during a camp after her sophomore year of high school, there was sentiment that she shouldn’t even step foot in Waco—or on any other college campus. There was buzz, four years ago, that she was the type of unique transcendent talent that should become the WNBA’s first preps-to-pros phenom.
Now a senior and defending national champion, Griner’s 25-point performance Monday night placed her behind the velvet ropes of women’s hoops’ exclusive 3,000-point club.
The women’s 3000-point list is a Mount Rushmore of offensive juggernauts. The 6’8” Griner is a Mount Everest-sized obstacle in the post. Not only is Griner the only resident of the 3,000-points-and-500-rebound penthouse suite, she’s locked down the 2,000/500 studio apartment lease, as well.
Griner can do it all. She’s a 75 percent philanthropist from the charity stripe and has range out to 12 feet. In the midst of the women’s games’ dunk renaissance, Griner is da Vinci-like. After Georgeann Wells became the first woman to throw down in an NCAA contest in 1984, there wasn’t another in-game slam for 10 years. In the early 2000s, Tennessee’s Michelle Snow opened the floodgates by dunking thrice in two years. Additionally, Candace Parker won the dunk contest at the 2004 McDonalds Game.
Griner has dunked an NCAA-record 11 times. However, unlike her predecessors, Griner’s dunks aren’t coming in transition off a running start.
The most impressive aspect of Griner’s career is that her most impactful contributions come on the defensive end where her rejection rate is higher than Harvard’s Law School. Griner is posting the type of gaudy shot-blocking statistics that Wilt’s rival Bill Russell made commonplace in the Association. As a freshman, Griner obliterated the single-season shot blocking record and on January 31, she became the NCAA’s all-time leading Wilson swatter.
Chamique Holdsclaw, Lisa Leslie, Candace Parker, Cheryl Miller and Sheryl Swoopes are queens of the women’s game, but Griner is coming for that crown.