Before they could recover, Griner caught him in the trail, turned, took two steps, and jumped off both feet for a one-handed dunk. Right now, the 6-foot-9 center didn’t know where she was in the square. Fortunately, when Griner turned she was only a jump from the edge.
“It just worked perfectly,” Griner told ESPN. “I would have been to ‘Shaqtin’ a Fool ‘if the edge hadn’t been so close.”
Looking back, Griner said she knew immediately she was going to throw that dunk against New York on Aug. 25, partly because of the situation – a quick pause and a wide open space in front of her – and partly because of a newfound approach to dunking: More is better. That was the result of the 30th birthday last October.
The milestone birthday hit Griner hard. She woke up the next morning and realized that it was not that easy to recover from one night. It didn’t take just a day to feel better. It took two or three.
Entering a new decade also gave Griner a fresh perspective on her basketball mortality.
“Before I get to the point where I can’t dive in or it hurts,” said Griner, “I said, let me try and collect something now.”
That’s exactly what she did.
The 6-foot-9 griner had five dunks at the highest level of her career in the regular season to improve on her WNBA record. Let’s go to Thursday WNBA playoff 2021 game against New York (10pm ET, ESPN2) Griner has 23 career dunks – 17 in the regular season, five in All-Star Games, and one in the playoffs. The rest of the WNBA have spotted just three regular season dunks in the league’s 25 seasons.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Griner. “I mean, I basically own all of the dunks in the W.”
And when Griner dives in, people notice. They’re usually shown on TV, which leads to more people talking about Mercury, the WNBA, and women’s football.
“I think it’s great,” said Mercury coach Sandy Brondello. “I think it brings in the crowd. It gets people talking about it, talking about women who can actually dive in and not the other way around, and yes, it’s just something that she’s very comfortable with and she’s in great shape.
“So, I think that also helps her get up and take advantage of these opportunities when they are presented to her.”
Brittney Griner throws her 13th dunk in the game.
DUNKS USED TO BE AN THOUGHT-IN for Griner, who delivered an MVP caliber season averaging 9.5 rebounds, 20.5 points, 2.7 assists and 1.9 blocks while leading Phoenix to 5th place in the WNBA playoffs. This season, dunks came first and she began to think about the future of dunks in the WNBA.
Griner sees videos of young women diving in on Instagram; She knows the next generations of the WNBA can put one down. The question is, will they? When Griner hears how many slams she’s had, she immediately ponders who the WNBA’s next big dunker will be. Many players can dunk. They just don’t do it in games.
“It’s hard to dive into the WNBA,” said Griner, who tossed in consecutive games for the first time in her career this month. “I feel like it’s easier in the NBA. I mean, I’m not a fool, the mechanics of our bodies are different. They’re much bigger and they can jump higher. That doesn’t mean women can’t jump higher or anything …
“And nobody in the WNBA wants to get involved. So they won’t just give it to you, so you really have to commit to doing it in-game.”
Griner tends to get fouled before she has a chance to knock you off. But when she does, she said the other teams hate it.
Does Griner want to post someone? Yes absolutely. Will someone give her this opportunity? Probably not. However, watching a player retreat has become a better feeling for Griner than the idea of immersing himself over someone.
“If you choose, a player can see that. For example, ‘Oh, she’s going to dive in’ so they get out of the way,” Griner said.
“It’s one thing to try to stop someone from diving in or to fight me.
It’s safer too.
In the past, one of Griner’s greatest fears while dunking has been falling on another player’s foot and rolling her ankle. She used to be “super aware” of where the other players were around her, which often led Griner to choose her.
“I think I just didn’t care this year,” said Griner. “That’s why I do it more. That’s why I’m more involved. I didn’t care where the people were. “
Brittney Griner slams another dunk on Thursday evening and pulls out the plane party.
Griner doesn’t need a lot of space to immerse. She can go straight up. If she can stand up with two feet, she’ll likely put down a two-handed dunk. She enjoys these more than one-handed dunks because they have more power and ferocity. And, well, “it looks cooler.”
One-footed darkening, which often results in a one-handed jam, is Griner’s signature mode to the edge.
“It’s spontaneous or quick, or I don’t have enough time to collect myself for a two-handed smash,” explained Griner.
She usually has a split second to decide whether to dive in or not. When she starts thinking about it, she gets into trouble. If she goes upstairs and thinks she’s going to dive in, but then changes her mind on a layup, Griner tends to miss the trick. The same thing happens when she tries to go from layup to dunk. That taught them to commit to one thing: if it’s a layup, then it’s a layup; if it’s a dunk, it’s a dunk.
The lightest dunks are either in transition, on a quick break, or when the lane opens for them – like the one against Liberty.
However, immersion in traffic requires more concerted effort.
“You have to be really committed,” Griner said, “because not only do you have to get up and immerse yourself in it, you also have to go through the violence of someone walking towards you, so you have to be really aware of what you’re in Concept to do.
“It’s about more than just going up.”
Whenever she throws you down, it’s instant hype: for her, her teammates, the crowd.
“You can’t tell me about the next five or six games,” said Griner with a smile. “I’m like a super hype.”
Griner still enjoys watching the faces of her teammates after a dunk and seeing the bank go insane. Those reactions, Griner said, push her to dive in as much as possible. When she hangs it up, her teammates often ask why she didn’t throw it away.
Her usual answer: “I didn’t even think about it.”
Diana Taurasi throws a full-court pass to Brittney Griner, who ends the game with a one-handed dunk for the Mercury.
GRINER GOT DUNKING since ninth grade, when the six-foot-tall student threw a volleyball at the urging of a caretaker who worked on the HVAC at her school. He was a good volleyball player so he helped with training. After she sunk that, a basketball was the next step. Griner began practicing with the boys’ ninth year team at Nimitz High School in Aldine, Texas. The team dunked a lot, and it inspired them to get higher so there weren’t any “baby dunks”.
She first immersed herself as a junior in high school and was just getting started. Griner had 52 dunks in 32 games as a senior, including nine in one game.
Their dunking continued in college. A freshman to Baylor, where she reached 6-foot-7, she became the seventh woman to dive into a regular season game. By the time she graduated in 2012, which included a national championship during a perfect 40-0 season, she had set a national NCAA record of 18 dunks.
Griner was number 1 in the 2013 draft, and by the time she hit the WNBA, game immersion was almost to be expected. She felt like she needed to dive into her Mercury debut.
“I felt like everyone would be disappointed if I didn’t get my first WNBA dunk,” she said. “I felt like everyone would have been let down by me as a player. Maybe my hype wouldn’t have been so great, so I felt the pressure from everyone else to get a dunk in this game.”
It happened – twice. All these years later, when Griner is reminded of this game, she keeps pointing out the same thing: Phoenix lost.
Still, it helped Griner get those dunks out of the way in the early days of her rookie season, said former Mercury coach Corey Gaines, now an assistant to the Washington Wizards.
“I think it was an opportunity for her to work on other parts of her game because she got so much better,” he said. “You could say it took the pressure off her. It’s done. It’s over.
Griner became the WNBA’s all-time leader in career blocks and is also a two-time scoring champion. Her influence on the game was recognized recently when Griner was named ESPN’s ranking of the 25 best players in WNBA history.
While she is among the most dominant centers in the WNBA, Griner’s new mindset and new approach in 2021 only further established her as the WNBA queen of the dunks.
“I just think about it a lot more and don’t care,” said Griner. “For example, I’ll try. If I am hanged, I will be hanged. Luckily I haven’t hung up yet, but if I miss it, I’ll miss it – at least it’s a dunking attempt. “