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The polarizing case of Brittney Griner: High praise, vocal haters and NBA possibilities

In recent weeks - and even not so recent weeks - the subject of Brittney Griner stands as a hot topic in many circles. Here's a quick look at some of the most recent high-profile pieces on the Baylor senior.


You get what some would call crazy talk; just last night - a mere two days after Brittney Griner completed her college career, Mark Cuban had some interesting comments to make to ESPN.

"If she is the best on the board, I will take her," Cuban said to Tim McMahon, as reported by ESPN Dallas. "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."

The owner of the Mavs has many people chomping at the bit to discuss the potential of having a girl "ruin" their men's basketball. By 10 p.m. PT, just a few hours after the original story posted, there were over 1,800 comments on the ESPN story about the potential of drafting her, or even extending her the opportunity to play NBA Summer League. Comments were of the publicity stunt and gimmick factor, suggesting he draft "a midget or a blind guy" if that's what Cuban and the Mavs were going for. Others went to - you guessed it - her gender, joking that since she's a "dude" anyway, that's where "he" should be playing.

"She'd still have to make the team," he said. "I'm not going to carry her just to carry her. I don't think, anyways. But I certainly wouldn't be opposed to giving her the opportunity."

I was at Summer League in Vegas last year. And I don't think her competing in that Summer League setting is really all that crazy - but that's just me. Of course, the decision of WNBA vs. NBA Summer League would sure be an interesting one for Ms. Griner to weigh.

You get the empowered pieces; the ones that say that the culture and acceptance of Griner as a basketball player and not just message board fodder is very real and very present.

"The way fans, coaches, and the mainstream media talk about Griner is a subtly radical, relatively new, and pretty damn great way to talk about women in sports: as an athlete." - Ashley Fetters, The Atlantic - March 23, 2013

Ashley Fetters, writing for The Atlantic, says, "Superstar women basketball players of yesteryear, though, didn't have it so grand. Media coverage of female athletes has a long, irksome history of ignoring the "sports" aspect of women's sports—and even as recently as a generation ago, the media was missing the point by a mile."

You get lofty comparisons; Bob Knight and Geno Auriemma discussed how she was the Lew Alcindor of the women's game. Nate wrote after that clip, "Ultimately, Griner has to be in the conversation as one of the most dominant college basketball players ever ... and the fact that she has forced us to search among the greatest posts of all-time for comparisons just accentuates how great she has become as a NCAA player."

You get the shame on us pieces; the ones that say that the fact that we are still even discussing her gender or ability on the court are a sad reflection on ourselves.

"The way it works is simple. No matter what Griner does -- win the NCAA championship with Baylor, earn national player of the year honors, break her wrist skateboarding, drop 50 points on Kansas State -- the naysayers hop on message boards and social media to deliver a variety of insults, questioning her fierce on-court demeanor, her talent in comparison to male players, even her genetic makeup," wrote Kate Fagan for ESPN. "It's a pretty good bet that whatever praise she receives will also come with a side dish of scorn -- because her best seems to bring out some people's worst. Truth is, those ugly things they say about Brittney Griner aren't really about her. They're about us."

You get everything far and wide when you put "Brittney Griner" in your favorite search engine. And when you add "Brittney Griner man" (or some iteration of such), you get something that makes me personally quite sad - and quite frustrated.

Here at Swish Appeal, many moons ago and before the 2012 Olympic team was finalized, yours truly wrote a piece about respecting her decision to withdraw from consideration from the team. You don't really need to revisit this piece, because I bet I can count you as one of the 22,247 (and climbing rapidly) clicks and gets a sizeable chunk of daily traffic every time she plays. And this makes me flabbergasted.

I really want to think that The Atlantic is right - we respect Brittney Griner as an athlete. But all these clicks and all these searches makes it seem much more that Fagan is not just using the power of her platform to irresponsibly report unfounded gender stereotypes as some commenters on that particular article suggest.

But no matter what side you're on - the one that is practically deifying, the one that is nearly vilifying or some mix in between - the point is clear - the subject of Brittney Griner is sure to bring up intense discussion and debate.

Have thoughts on these links or any additional links to share? Feel free to drop them in the comments.