Could Brittney Griner play in the NBA? That has been a debated topic since Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said last week that he would consider taking the former Baylor star in the NBA draft, or at least giving her a shot to try out for the roster.
Lisa Leslie is one of the best women’s basketball players of all time. Even though playing in the NBA was never a goal for her, she wouldn’t want to discourage Griner from trying to play in the league.
“If that’s a goal of Brittney Griner, then she should follower her dreams,” Leslie told Larry Brown Sports in a phone interview on Tuesday. “But, if it’s not — because she didn’t ask for Mark Cuban to come out and say those things, he did that on his own — so if that’s not what she wants to do, that’s the purpose of the WNBA. [The WNBA is here] for her to come into a league that’s for women and for her to come in and completely try to dominate and take us to new heights.
“That’s where I see Brittney Griner living and doing a phenomenal job of being one of the best players that we’ve ever seen play the women’s game.”
The WNBA draft is on April 15 and the season begins in May. The NBA Draft is in June, which would present a scheduling conflict. Leslie says Griner has a choice to make, and she has advice for the 6-foot-8 center.
“She’s going to have to make a choice. If she decides to go the NBA route, clearly she’s going to miss training camp as well as the WNBA season to go play in the NBA summer league. If that’s something that she decides to do, I would give her three sets of recommendations,” said Leslie.
“No. 1 – You need to go hire a trainer. Because at 6-foot-8 and 205 pounds, she’s not going to make it in the post with the men.
“No. 2 – She’s definitely going to have to put on some weight and bulk and really work at her game and improve. Being more physical may be more to her advantage; she probably has to play more timid against the women because she could get in foul trouble.
“The third thing is to really try to find a mentor, an NBA player that she can confide in and figure out things she can do to be better.”
Leslie admits she would prefer to see Griner in the WNBA.
“That’s a tough journey and, if she chooses to do that, she would have so many people for her and against her. It’s just a part of the game, but I really hope that she chooses to play in the WNBA. It’s made for a player like her to excel and play professional basketball in our country.”
Griner responded to Cuban and indicated that she wants to give the NBA a shot. If she tries to play in the NBA, does Leslie think Griner could succeed?
“That I don’t know. I’ve never seen her play at the next level,” Leslie said. “I didn’t see her play USA basketball, so I don’t have anything to compare it to other than the game that she’s played in college basketball with women that are half her size. It’s very difficult to measure what she’s capable of doing.
“I remember playing in college wasn’t the most difficult level for me because I couldn’t be as physical as I wanted to be, you only get five fouls, you got to watch your elbows because players are smaller than you. We haven’t seen Brittney Griner against a person her size or taller or a more physical player where she could get more physical, so it would be interesting to see what that matchup looks like.”
Leslie is a four-time Olympic gold medalist, three-time WNBA MVP, and eight-time WNBA All-Star. With her credentials, you figure she might have wanted to see if she could play in the top league in the world. Leslie says that wasn’t the case.
“That was definitely not in my goals. If I had to go back and rewrite my own story, I wouldn’t change anything except for winning an NCAA championship. I wouldn’t change anything. Even having the opportunity to play overseas before the WNBA began, it was all perfect timing. I felt that was the purpose of me wanting to be a role model. I was at a time when I could be thankful for having the WNBA and not taking it for granted.”
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