42 is More Than Just a Number For Griner

By: Greg Esposito, PhoenixMercury.com

Posted April 16, 2013

While watching the new movie 42, the biopic about Jackie Robinson’s life and career, I couldn’t help but think of yet another pioneer ready to make an impact in the world of sports. Another athlete who proudly wears the number the legendary baseball player made famous.

That competitor is Brittney Griner, who on Tuesday will be at Yankee Stadium on Jackie Robinson Day, and she chose her signature number in honor of the trailblazer who donned the Brooklyn blue for the first time over 65 years ago. While she won’t face the same kind of hardship and discrimination Robinson had to bear, she has her own unique path, not unlike her idol, she’ll have to travel as she enters her professional career.

Robinson faced segregation and racial slurs. A hatred not based on facts but archaic thoughts and assumptions that clouded people’s ability to appreciate true greatness. Griner won’t be judged by the color of her skin but rather by the number of X chromosomes she possess. A discrimination not as blatantly hate filled as the one Jackie faced but a discrimination nonetheless.

It’s an ignorance that leads to people questioning her gender, sexuality and making commentary about how she is incapable of playing the game at the highest level. Like her idol though, she carries herself with a grace. She allows her play to do the talking and is obviously comfortable in her own skin. It shows on the court in a swagger and an radiant belief in her own skills.

Griner may not be the first woman to play the game, or even the first to have overtures from an NBA owner sent her way. What she is, is the first woman to possess a skill set that can change minds forever. Someone that can do for women’s basketball what Robinson did for the African American baseball player.

Her style of play is one that has never been seen in the WNBA before. A combination of grace, power and the ability to dunk and dominate. It’s those skills that make her capable of proving the game and league deserve to have a place in the minds and viewing schedule of men around the country. They can also prove she deserves to be appreciated for who she is rather than mocked for what she is not or may seem to be.

The best part is, we get a front row seat for everything that is to come. We get to watch greatness potentially unfold in front of our eyes. Like people who lived in Brooklyn in the 40s and 50s still talk about getting to see Robinson play, young girls may someday talk about Griner in the same glowing and idolizing way.

So let me be one of the first to say, Brittney we’re lucky to have you in Phoenix. But the game is luckier to have you involved. Best of luck as you begin what we hope will be a very impactful career.