Standing 6’9″ with a 7’3″ wingspan, Brittney Griner has measurables that were once unseen in the WNBA, until now. The Baylor University product has been towering over opponents since her first days on a basketball court, and quickly developed into the most feared shot-blocker in the history of the sport.
As the Defensive Player of the Year Awards piled up first at Baylor and now in the WNBA, Griner has been recognized time and time again as a Sultan of the swat and ruler of the rejection. Her ability to affect an opponent’s shot has equated to numerous personal accolades and even a WNBA championship in 2014. But she’s after something much more substantial this summer: an Olympic gold medal.
Although she’s 25 years old and already a household name, this will be the first time she’ll go for gold with the National Team. She joins the likes of Elena Delle Donne and Breanna Stewart as the newcomers to a loaded United States roster.
“As far as the Opening Ceremony and things like that, I don’t know. I’m just excited to experience my first Olympics, Griner said after practice on Thursday. “So, I’m kind of wide-eyed and taking it all in. But when we step on the court, I know what to do. I know how to play. I just have to go out there and do what I do best.”
She may be in unfamiliar territory off the court, but on it she’s right back to the place she knows best. It will come as a surprise to no one that Griner is already imposing her will on the offenses she’s seen in the team’s exhibition games. Exhibit A: Griner’s emphatic denial of a fadeaway jumper with her otherworldly length against France:
“I notice them. I feed off them. I want to get another one,” Griner said postgame, addressing her teammates excitement when she does what she does best. “I love blocking shots more than dunking, so when I get one I want to get another with my left hand, too. I was a little hyped about that.”
This kind of play is second nature to the Mercury star, but she’s also been getting it done on the offensive side of the floor, and in an array of ways. Everyone with a television or computer knows that she has the ability to dunk and does most of her damage near the rim. But in her short time with the National Team, she’s been more willing to take jumpers and put on the ball on the floor.
Here, we see Griner compose herself with a few dribbles and elevate for a smooth, high-percentage jumper:
Next it’s Griner really showcasing her range in a catch-and-shoot opportunity from the elbow, a spot she rarely ventures to in Phoenix:
Finally, it’s all about the athleticism as she accelerates past her defender with a quick dribble and then uses her length for an acrobatic finish:
Griner’s first Olympic experience will be fascinating to watch. Not only will she be tallest player on the floor whenever she’s out there, but if these exhibition games are any indication of what’s to come, we may be witnessing the maturation to a player who is already genetically superior to most others on the floor.
No matter what Rio holds, Griner knows how important this moment is in her basketball career.
“Just to have the opportunity to be a part of the U.S. Olympic Team is an honor. So many athletes before us have set the standard of how to play at every sport. I just want to continue in their footsteps and keep that standard of play the same.”