The Valley Has Griner Fever

By Ben York, PhoenixMercury.com

There’s a routine I follow on Sunday mornings that’s as predictable (and boring) as gravity.

I wake up around 8am, throw some clothes on and grab a gigantic cup of coffee. This past Sunday, I sported a Phoenix Mercury shirt.

Not unusual by any means.

The reaction to my shirt, though, was a bit out of the ordinary.

“Oh my gosh,” said a spunky employee to me at the register after seeing the Mercury logo on my shirt. Clearly, unlike me, he already had his coffee. “Did you hear they got Brittney Griner?!”

“You know,” I began to reply. “I did hear that!”

For me, that quick interaction confirmed what I already knew: The Valley of the Sun has officially caught a case of Brittney Griner fever.

By now, you’ve heard about the 77-foot banner of a dunking Brittney Griner graced in a Phoenix Mercury uniform that drapes the entire east side of Hotel Palomar in Phoenix.

Or, the enormous Brittney Griner posters inside US Airways Center.

Driven downtown lately? That’s right – 1st Street has been renamed “Griner Street.”

And you’ve probably had the fortune of getting to know Brittney Griner a little better through her special guest appearances on over 10 local television and radio shows over the past few days.

To say the Arizona community is excited for Griner’s arrival would be a massive understatement.

“I really haven’t seen anything like it,” said longtime Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury fan, Barry Tulane. “She’s everywhere. I had students at the school I teach at ask me when the Phoenix Mercury home opener was. Right now, she is the most famous women’s basketball player in the world and seems to be handling everything with class.”

Griner’s visit to Phoenix began with her introductory press conference inside US Airways Center on Saturday, April 20. Dozens of media members flocked to the Al McCoy Media Center to catch their first glimpse of the Mercury’s new 6-8 star.

“This big girl likes to run,” Griner said to an audience of applause in response to questions on how she’ll handle the up-tempo offense of the Phoenix Mercury.

Afterwards, she attended a fan rally comprised of the team’s Founder’s Club. Next, Griner went through a circuit of media interviews and photo shoots on the team’s practice court. To cap off the busy day, she performed the coin toss at the Arizona Rattlers game.

Following her busy Saturday, Griner appeared as a guest judge for the team’s official Hip Hop Squad tryouts in Tempe on April 21. After yet another photo shoot, Griner was then featured on multiple Sunday night sport shows including KTVK-TV 3, NBC, ABC-15, Fox-10 and CBS-5.

On Monday, Griner continued her media tour at several of Arizona’s television and radio morning shows and even got to play some hoops with Valley favorite and Arizona Cardinals’ superstar, Larry Fitzgerald.

Amazingly -- and I cannot emphasize this enough – not once did Griner ever complain or show any signs of being mentally drained during her week-long, grueling media tour in Connecticut, New York and Phoenix.

Not. Once.

Keep in mind, a typical day for Griner began at 5am and didn’t finish until close to midnight.

Indeed, fans and media alike have already fallen in love with Griner based on her warm and generous personality. Expectations remain high for Griner in regards to her on-court performance, as they should.

But off the court? Griner has already surpassed predictions in a tremendously positive way.

“She was so nice,” said an almost tearful and huge Mercury fan, Julia Streep, who met Griner at the Hip Hop Squad auditions. “I don’t know what I expected, but she was super cool! She is going to fit in perfectly with the team and the city.

“I could not be more impressed. Wow, I still can't believe I just met Brittney Griner!”

But just in case you've forgotten what she can do on the court, check out the video below.