Brittney Griner Talks Possible Baylor Jersey Retirement: 'It Would Mean a Lot to Me'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVDecember 2, 2021

Baylor Bears center Brittney Griner cuts down the nets after defeating Notre Dame 80-61 in NCAA Women's 2012 National Championship action at the Pepsi Center in Denver, CO Tuesday April 3, 2012. AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post  (Photo By AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Photo By AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Brittney Griner has had a complicated relationship with her alma mater, but the Phoenix Mercury star would still love to see her number hanging in the rafters of Baylor's Ferrell Center.

"I've seen that special moment with a lot of my teammates and friends at their schools where they gave their all," she said to ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel. "I met my wife at Baylor. Baylor's in my blood. I love the school. I love Waco. And it would mean a lot to me, honestly. It's something I would definitely cherish and love."

Griner is the greatest player in program history. She was a three-time Big 12 Player of the Year and a two-time Wade Trophy recipient. The 6'9" center also played a critical role for the Bears in 2011-12, when they went unbeaten (40-0) and claimed their second national title.

Despite all she achieved in Waco, Texas, Griner hasn't received the treatment befitting a campus legend.

Shortly after being selected by the Mercury in the 2013 WNBA draft, the 31-year-old shed some light on her experiences at Baylor. She told ESPN The Magazine that members of the Bears coaching staff, including coach Kim Mulkey, instructed her to refrain from speaking publicly about her sexuality.

Griner addressed the dynamic further in her memoir, In My Skin, and wrote that Baylor's policies against homosexuality dampened her desire to promote her connection to the university.

"I've spent too much of my life being made to feel like there's something wrong with me," she wrote (via USA Today's Scott Gleeson). "And no matter how much support I felt as a basketball player at Baylor, it still doesn't erase all the pain I felt there."

To celebrate Coming Out Day in October, ESPN reached out to a number of athletes from the LGBTQ+ community. Speaking to Josh Weinfuss of ESPN, Griner said her coming out process "was probably when I went from collegiate to pro." While not tying it to her Baylor career specifically, she appeared to allude to the issues she laid out years before:

"I didn't want anyone to go through what I went through. That feeling of not being true to yourself, and looking in the mirror and not liking what you see, is a horrible feeling. I didn't want anyone to feel like that. I never really had anyone to look up to that was, like, huge...Billy Jean King? But that wasn't my era, I didn't grow up as a little kid looking up to her. So I wanted to be someone to look up to, in this present time. Everybody who reaches out to me, they tell me, 'You helped me, you inspired me,' and I think that's bigger than basketball, honestly. Bigger than a gold medal, any award. Knowing that you helped someone not feel down, or have horrible thoughts, because I've been there."

Beyond what she achieved with Baylor, Griner has gone on to be a seven-time All-Star and win a title in the WNBA. In September, she was selected to the league's 25th-anniversary team.

Based purely on her resume, Griner should've had her Baylor jersey retired long ago, but that process is a two-way street.

She told Voepel she hasn't attended a game since graduating in 2013 but that she plans on watching the Bears compete sometime this month under first-year head coach Nicki Collen. Mulkey took over as LSU's women's basketball head coach in April.