George Mikan. Wilt Chamberlain. Lisa Leslie. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Mikan was the first real center to play men's basketball and transformed the game with his rebounding, shot blocking and hook shot. If you look at pictures of Mikan and his opponents, he looks like the Jolly Green Giant going up against a pack of Smurfs. Regardless, he changed the game and made the Lakers cool before they were in Los Angeles. He averaged 22.6 points and 13.4 rebounds per game during his career.
Chamberlain scored 100 points in a single game and was a seven foot, 275-pound monster. He was named MVP four times throughout his career and was a 13-time All-Star. Fun fact: Chamberlain played for the Harlem Globetrotters before playing for Philadelphia in 1959.
Leslie was the first WNBA player to dunk and was the first in league history to score 6,000 points. She has four Olympic Gold Medals along with roughly 3,398 other trophies.
Abdul-Jabbar made 19 All-Star games and many argue that he was the greatest basketball player of all-time. Some Michael Jordan guy might debate that, but that’s talk for another day. Abul-Jabbar kept his hook shot rolling until he was in his early 40s and made goggles look cool.
These four have a lot in common. They are all considered the best centers in basketball history. They have in some way changed and evolutionized the game, making it what it is today. Another thing they have in common is rookie center Brittney Griner has been compared to all of them.
Obviously this is quite the honor. Many think she can become better than Leslie and could ultimately become the best player in WNBA history. She’s taken tips from Abdul-Jabbar on the hook shot and is still working on adding items to her arsenal.
I had the pleasure of watching Griner practice last week while she was in Minnesota in anticipation for Thursday’s Mercury and Lynx game.
During Thursday night’s game, Griner was so-so, finishing with 16 points and five rebounds. The best center on the floor was Amber Harris, but even if Griner had put up 30 points and 15 rebounds, I would still be writing this.
No matter what happens, Griner has already made her place in basketball history. She’s won the NCAA Player of the Year in 2012 along with winning the 2012 NCAA Championship, among many other awards that are a little more impressive than my Little League Participation Award I received in fourth grade.
The WNBA has already made the “Griner Rule” which is a new defensive three-second rule, which keeps players out of the paint unless they are guarding someone. And she’s the first WNBA player to dunk twice in one game, something she did in her debut.
So yeah, she has already changed the game in a sense.
But from talking to her last week, I sensed a player who was still trying to learn, not someone who was worried about their legacy, which was refreshing. She hasn’t been as dominating as many had thought so far in the WNBA, averaging 16.7 points to go along with 6.7 rebounds per game. Her Mercury has just one win under their belt, and that came in a game that Griner sat out of because of a knee sprain. For any other rookie, those numbers would be more that impressive. At just 22 years old, Griner will get better. I know that we can compare her to other basketball players, but comparing players is a dangerous thing to do and at the end of the day ends in disappointment.
If Griner doesn’t win Rookie of the Year, will the expectations go away or does she automatically become a disappointment because we had such high expectations?
Something to think about.
Here are some other tidbits:
The Lynx lost their first game of the season to the Washington Mystics on Saturday night. The Lynx couldn’t seem to find their rhythm, shooting just 38.5 percent from the field. Seimone Augustus, who was 18-for-26 in her first two games of the season, shot just 9-for-27 from the field. Very unlike her.
Rebekkah Brunson hauled in 17 rebounds and was a big reason why the Lynx lost by only five points. If she’s not the best rebounder in the league, she’s real close.
The Lynx have the San Antonio Silver Stars on Tuesday. San Antonio plays the Chicago Sky today at 5 p.m. CST. It should be a pretty good game. I still think Elena Delle Donne will win the Rookie of the Year Award.
The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs play Game 2 of the NBA Finals tonight. Amber Harris is a huge Heat fan, so she’ll be cheering for Team LeBron. I think the Heat will win tonight. They can’t afford to drop both games at home to start the series.
As always, thanks for reading. Enjoy your week.
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