SEASON PREVIEW: Griner ushers in new era"Before games, I'll have fans wearing the opponents' attire and they'll be like, 'I came to watch you dunk.' And I'm like, 'so you came to see me dunk on your team, basically? Even Wilt (Chamberlain) only won (two) championships."Griner's two effortless slams set a record for most dunks in a game and tied a league record for most dunks in a career.
' That's cool," says Griner, who still considers her defense and shot blocking ability — with an 88-inch wingspan — to be her biggest strength."There's a lot of expectations, I get that. It took Griner 27 minutes to match an all-time mark shared by Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker. Still, that's only part of her game."She gives so much more than dunks to the game," Mercury coach Corey Gaines says. There's a three-second rule on defense this season that I don't think is a coincidence."RELATED: Griner responds to Mark Cuban saying he'd draft her in NBATaurasi has taken a mentoring role, teaching Griner the intricacies of the pick-and-roll, which she's never run before."I think it's incredible for her to come in as the most popular and marketed player and she walks into the locker room, ready to work like everybody else," Taurasi says. Griner told USA TODAY Sports it's "definitely a goal" to play in the 2016 Olympics after passing on the 2012 team for family reasons.
There's a lot of 'she has to change the league.' But I just feel like if I play ball the way I know how, I can help make the league more exciting."The Mercury started the season 0-3 despite being picked as the favorite to win the WNBA title in 2013 — showing that Griner's impact on the game won't simply happen overnight."As far as changing the game, how the game is played, I don't see that," New York Liberty coach and former NBA big man Bill Laimbeer says. "She runs like a deer in transition, her shot-blocking ability is so huge. After the season, like most WNBA players, Griner plans to continue playing overseas. HAVING A VOICEAs the WNBA pushes its new star farther into the spotlight, Griner's been slowly answering the question: Who is Brittney Griner?But it's going to take time for her to adjust and dominate. She signed a multi-year deal with Zheijiang Chouzhou of China, with plans to play from October through February. "Most athletes act all unhuman and you can't relate to them. During a game of NBA 2K13, Griner is quick to pick the Miami Heat as her team."I love the freedom that comes with being an adult.No one's telling you what to do, nothing's planned out.She's done hiding — both on and off the court."There's something to be said about being comfortable in your own skin," Mercury teammate and 10-year WNBA veteran Diana Taurasi says. She's Brittney Griner, who plays basketball at the highest level, and off the court can get along with anyone."She's really re-energized the WNBA and revived the whole city (of Phoenix) with women's basketball."CHANGING THE LEAGUEOn the court, Griner is a shot-blocking, dunking, emotional superstar. I don't know what sex they are, but I say they're both girls.
Off it, she's an active longboarder, she listens to Jimi Hendrix before games and Trace Adkins after, she'll soon be wearing men's clothing as part of a multi-year endorsement deal with Nike, and she has two pet snakes, Audii and Sage."I think snakes are misunderstood," she says. Audii is gray and a bit bigger, and Sage is red and yellow but smaller."I want to get the full sleeve like he has," she says.Another is the double-linked female sign that represents Griner's sexuality.You know what you have to do, you can get to practice two hours before or walk in at the last second."NO.1 PICK: USA TODAY Sports profiles Griner's Draft Day Most of Griner's body art has meaning: One is dedicated to her brother, De Carlo, who inspired her to first consider tattoos.The fact that Brittney embraces who she is can only help the game.