Great piece by Ramona Shelburne (the best writer at ESPN) on Brittney Griner and other women dunking. It seems that the Baylor center’s latest dunks have been met with some uneasiness from fans. Shelburne talked to a handful of coaches and players for the story, and Lisa Leslie and Michael Cooper, in particular, nailed it.
She’s not surprised, however, that the reaction to Griner’s dunks has been mixed.
“People are never really satisfied,” she said. “I dunked and people said it was just one-handed. Now Brittney’s dunked two-handed and people are like, ‘Oh, there’s only one person who can do that.’
“I don’t think any of us can ever live up to the expectations or things naysayers throw at us.”
Cooper, who has had the rare distinction of coaching both Leslie and Parker in their primes, said he thinks that Griner’s dunks are rocking the boat a bit because dunking, and doing it consistently and easily, is one of the last things most men can do that women can’t.
“The reason why some guys look at [women dunking] like it’s no big deal is because they can’t do it,” he said. “If a woman can do something better than a guy, he’s not going to make a big deal out of it because that’s something he can’t do.
I’ve had these same thoughts – and more – while contemplating the increasing commonality of women dunking.
That old saying that you need to be twice as good, if you’re of a group that faces discrimination, to prove yourself, seems true here. Because Leslie is right: people always find fault with a woman’s dunk, no matter what. Nothing is ever good enough.
Cooper is also correct in that it makes some men feel insecure that suddenly women can do something that’s always been traditionally their province.
Griner is an easy target for the non-evolved and easily-threatened, because of her size. She is 6-foot-8, with a large frame and a 7-foot-4 wing span. But despite her soft baby face, some of the most hateful people have called her “a man,” and other names. It’s one of the oldest attempts at stripping the power of female athletes in the book – along with calling all women in sports lesbians. It has always amazed me how much fear and insecurity run the world.
The entire phenomenon highlights the plight of female athletes in general: if they’re too “girly,” they are made fun of for that; if they’re super-athletic and/or “tomboys,” they’re called “men.” You’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.
As far as dunking goes, Geno Auriemma has the right idea:
“I don’t know why it’s a big deal,” he said of Griner. “She didn’t seem to think it’s a big deal. It’s almost like everybody around her is making it a bigger deal than she is.
“Maybe at some point, if it happens a little more often, the novelty will wear off.”
There are numerous girls and women who are capable of dunking. One, who I coached a few years ago, is only 5-foot-11. Breanna Stewart made the finals of the McDonald’s All-American game dunk contest Monday night. Change is coming, whether some fans like it or not.
Lisa Leslie is a fan of Griner’s.
Georgeann Wells threw down the first dunk, in 1984.