Baylor Lady Bears center Brittney Griner was unquestionably the most talented player in women’s college basketball, and her dominance of the sport has led many experts, including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, to believe she could be drafted into the NBA.
As genuine as the sentiment of equal rights should be in this case—if a woman can play the position as well as a man, she deserves to be drafted—Cuban’s comments about selecting Griner in the NBA draft are likely just another publicity stunt.
When asked about taking Griner in the draft if she was the best player available, the Mavericks’ owner told ESPN how he would handle the situation:
I will take her. Right now, I'd lean toward yes, just to see if she can do it. You never know unless you give somebody a chance.
After the buzz that those comments caused around basketball, Cuban followed up with a clarification via email to USA Today:
We evaluate every draft-eligible player on the planet. 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 yesterday, 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.
It is worth noting that Cuban has not backed off his comments completely, still expressing his interest in seeing Griner attempt to make the NBA. But he now admits that the likelihood of her making an actual roster would be very slim.
While there are plenty of fans that believe Griner deserves a chance to see if she has what it takes to make it in the NBA, UCONN women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma told Sean Highkin of USA Today about what he thinks of Cuban’s comments:
Obviously Mark Cuban is a genius because he’s been able to parlay some great ideas into billion dollar industries and he’s done a great job as owner of the Dallas Mavericks. He’s won an NBA championship and he’s done an awful lot for basketball. His genius would take a huge hit if he drafted Brittney Griner. And if Brittney Griner tries to make it to an NBA team, I think it would be a public relations thing and I think it would be a sham. 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.
Upon first glance, Auriemma’s words seem harsh toward women athletes, but the truth of the matter is that few people would know better than arguably the greatest women’s basketball coach in recent history.
Auriemma has seen Griner in action and has coached women’s athletics for a very long time. If he doesn’t believe the talented college star could make it in the NBA and that this is a publicity stunt, then that lends credence to the notion Cuban made these comments for attention.
As harmless as his words look to be on the surface, Griner herself took to Twitter to state that she was ready for her chance in the NBA:
Brittney Griner @brittneygriner
Mark Cuban may draft Brittney Griner http://t.co/FQ16Q0YPqw ... I would hold my own! Lets do it4/3/2013, 4:32:56 AM
The Baylor star doesn’t think this is a joke or a publicity stunt.
While there is no question that Griner should be allowed to work out with NBA teams in the offseason if she wanted to—and as long as the WNBA team that drafts her (likely the Phoenix Mercury) allows it—these comments about being picked in the 2013 NBA draft are misleading for the Baylor standout.
Instead of being focused on the most important transition of her life (leaving college and entering the professional ranks), Griner is dealing with a plethora of NBA draft questions she shouldn’t have to answer.
As great as it would be to see her try out for the NBA, this was a publicity stunt by Cuban once again, and Griner should just be focused on her new WNBA career.