There is no question that Brittney Griner is a spectacular women’s basketball player. She’s a 6’8”, 208-pound beast who is the all-time NCAA leader in blocks – for men and women – and is probably player in women’s college basketball today. She’s the best player in the history of Baylor basketball, the best defensive player in women’s NCAA history and her impact on every game she plays in is undeniable.
She’s the three-time Big 12 Player of the Year, four-time Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, a three-time AP All-American (twice first team, once second team), she’s an NCAA champion and 2012’s Final Four Most Outstanding Player and Player of the Year. In 2012, she blocked more shots by herself than any other Division I women’s team. She did that while averaging 23 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks per game.
She is a phenom who can bring two-way dominance to the next level in the WNBA and immediately change the fortunes of whatever team she joins.
Any other year it would be positively foolish not to take her with the number one overall pick, but this is not any other year. In 1984, the Portland Trailblazers had the second pick in the draft and used it on Sam Bowie, a 7’1″ star center with a great college career who everyone thought was the smart pick. With the next pick the Chicago Bulls drafted Michael Jordan.
The WNBA Draft will be televised in primetime for the first time in the league’s history, Monday night at ESPN’s headquarters at 8 p.m.
The Phoenix Mercury have the top pick and in this year’s draft there is a transformative figure who is going to change the face of women’s sports and the face of basketball. She will be not just the next big thing, but the biggest thing we’ve ever seen in women’s athletics at any level.
Skylar Diggins, if she so chooses, is going to be the Michael Jordan of women’s basketball. She will take the WNBA to a new level, in terms of exposure, popularity and revenue.
Great players with the size and skill of Griner and Elena Delle Done (6’5” with deep range and a serious handle) don’t come around often, but transformative figures like Diggins come around once in a generation, maybe once in a lifetime.
The WNBA has been looking for its Michael Jordan since it was launched and this is one pick that absolutely has to be made with the understanding that it is bigger than next season.
First, and let’s just get this out of the way now, Skylar Diggins is gorgeous. There have been attractive female basketball players before, but Diggins is something else. Celebrities like Lil Wayne have taken a shine to Diggins and even made trips to see her play. This will only increase as her exposure at the pro level grows. It’s hard to look good running up and down a basketball court for two hours, but she pulls it off very, very well.
But she’s not just a pretty face with a little bit of game. Diggins’ up-tempo, high-risk, high-energy style is going to be a huge fan draw. She’s not afraid to dive for a loose ball, throw a pass behind her back, argue with referees or chest bump a teammate after a big play. Her heady mix of exuberance, intelligence and enthusiasm on the court make her fun to watch and a fun teammate with whom other stars want to be on the court. Her presence makes her teammates better, the game faster and gets the fans excited. Fans may come to stare at her beauty, but they’ll stay to watch her game.
Most importantly, Skylar Diggins has “it,” that unexplainable star quality that just makes people want to be around her. She’s a smart and savvy young woman off the court and she’s not afraid to cry, as she did after a big win over UConn in 2012; or make a wise crack, as she did when being interviewed during halftime of Notre Dame’s final home game this season; or shut a reporter down, as she did when she didn’t like a question following the team’s 2012 tournament loss to the Huskies.
She lives for the big shot and the big moment and she’s not afraid to come up short. She plays with emotion and heart and, quite frankly, her swag is off the charts.
If she makes the right calls and surrounds herself with the right people, she’ll be a household name with more endorsement offers than she has time to say no to and an adoring public eager to eat from the palm of her hand.
Brittney Griner and Elena Della Donne are great, impact players who will likely have long, storied careers in the WNBA, but Skylar Diggins is more than a player, she is the future. The franchise(s) that passes on her will regret it for years and years to come.