ESPNDallas.com’s Tim MacMahon reported prior to the game against the Los Angeles Lakers that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban would be willing to give Baylor women’s superstar Brittney Griner the opportunity to have a chance to play in the NBA.
“If she is the best on the board, I will take her,” Cuban said. “I’ve thought about it. I’ve thought about it already. Would I do it? Right now, I’d lean toward yes, just to see if she can do it. You never know unless you give somebody a chance, and it’s not like the likelihood of any late-50s draft pick has a good chance of making it.”
Griner replied with a positive response to the possibility. “I would hold my own! Lets do it.” she wrote on Twitter on Tuesday night in response to Cuban.
Brittney Griner finished her spectacular career second all-time in scoring, and her 748 blocks are the most in men’s or women’s college basketball. With 3,283 career points, Griner finished with the second-highest point total in Women’s NCAA Division I history (Jackie Stiles – 3,393 points). In his initial comment about Griner, Cuban said that if they don’t plan on using a second round draft pick on Griner, the Mavericks certainly wouldn’t be opposed to giving her an opportunity to join the team’s Las Vegas summer league roster.
The idea or notion of Griner being affiliated with the NBA was met with some obvious resistance, on multiple levels. Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma called Cuban a financial genius, but “his genius would take a huge hit if he drafted Brittney Griner.”
“I think it would be a sham,” Auriemma said. “The fact that a woman could actually play right now in the NBA and compete successfully against the level of play that they have is absolutely ludicrous.”
Cuban responded to Auriemma’s criticism via email to USA Today. “We evaluate every draft-eligible player on the planet,” Cuban said in the email. “The chance of any college graduate selected at the end of the draft making a roster is very, very small. We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t consider everyone.
“As I told the media (Tuesday), she would have to excel in workouts to get drafted. I have no problem giving her that opportunity. I hope she gives it a shot. Nothing harms an organization or company more than a closed mind.”
The news of this has ruffled a lot of feathers. The naysayers had a field day when the news came out about this possibility, but I honestly have no clue what the problem is. First, let’s look at the first part – actually drafting Griner in the second round. Drafting someone in that round sounds like a throwaway, but that isn’t necessarily the case. According to ESPN Stats and Information, in the last 10 NBA drafts, 67.9 percent of players drafted in second round actually played in an NBA game. The thing is, picks (even second-round picks) are still seen as valuable. Why would Cuban want to use the pick on Grinner, who is nearly 100 percent likely to not be selected? Just going the route he mentioned – inviting her to join the summer league roster – seems the more realistic avenue. He gets to have his cake and eat it too in this scenario. He can grab a lotto ticket with a project and still have the ability to bring Griner into the mix as an invitee.
Cuban is looking to improve his team but he’s also a businessman. Having Griner in Vegas and letting her play is a marketing jackpot. Is that exploiting Griner? It could clearly been seen as that, but I don’t think that’s the case. If she wants to give it a try and see how her game can translate at the next level, why not give her the opportunity? Even if the odds heavily lean towards the answer being obvious, that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t try.
Just because the WNBA is there doesn’t mean that she should feel she’s restricted to only playing that league. I know it’s a different set of circumstances and sponsorship exemptions where involved, but Michelle Wie was able to compete against men in PGA events. Clearly, she struggled in those events, but it allowed her to push herself to another level. She probably sees the game in a different way, prepares for it a different way and understands the game in a different way with the new perspective. Danica Patrick is another example of the ‘the girls competing against the boys.’ The key word is competing. That’s what sports are all about. It’s about competition. It is about competing against someone else and seeing what you have, no matter of the gender.
She clearly established herself as one of the better talents in women’s basketball, so what is the harm in giving her a simple opportunity? It’s not like it’s setting the NBA back by opening this door. If a woman is good enough, she’ll play. If she’s not, she’ll move elsewhere. You know what? That’s the same case for men who try to make it in the league.
Stranger things have happened. Men who seemed like they weren’t destined to make it in the league found a way to make a career in the NBA. Just because that is the case, that doesn’t mean Griner is destined for NBA stardom or a journeyman (in this case, journeywoman’s) career. All it means is that no matter of if she’s a man or woman, she can ball. That means she should be given a chance.
Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He is a contributing writer for Mavs.com. Bryan also attended Ball So Hard University. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.