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Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Stop celebrating women's dunks

By LZ Granderson

There are YouTube clips of Brittney Griner dunking that date as far back as 2007.

And yet each step of the way, from high school through her stellar career at Baylor University to her debut in the WNBA, we continue to make special note of her doing something those highlights revealed she could do years ago.

Brittney Griner
Brittney Griner was dunking when she played at Aldine Nimitz High School.


Brittney Griner can dunk.

Let us hope this ceases to be breaking news so that she can be judged as a basketball player and not written about like some sort of vaudeville act doing parlor tricks.

At 6-foot-8, with the wingspan of a small plane, Griner is a physical wonder. But at this point, unless she is actually dunking on someone or the dunk is a game-changer, I see no reason to continue to stop the world so we can track each time she slams.

Not to be a hater, but the two she had in her WNBA debut for the Phoenix Mercury were wide-open and late in the fourth after the game had been decided.

And yet in many cases, those dunks were a major focal point in the coverage that followed, even though, each time, the dunk merely cut the Chicago Sky's lead to 22.


True, she became the first woman to dunk twice in an WNBA game. But I wonder, where exactly does this dunk-o-meter end? What happens when she gets three wide-open dunks, or four? Are we going to continue to highlight a routine achievement for her the way Mrs. Klump cheered "Hercules Hercules" for her fat kid in "The Nutty Professor"? Or are we finally going to shift our focus on the one thing we typically judge No. 1 picks in any sport on: wins.

Look, I haven't dunked since Bill Clinton was in office, so I'm just happy for anyone who can do so without a trampoline. But at the end of the day, it's just two points. The more relevant question, given where she was drafted: Can Griner make Phoenix a winner again? While she was sent to the bench with three fouls in the first quarter, the woman taken immediately after her, Elena Delle Donne, was laying the groundwork for a 102-80 rout of Griner's squad. Afterward, Griner said that she was happy about the dunks but that "I wish it was in a win."

It's time the rest of us join her in that sentiment.

If the first step in the journey to social progress is the opportunity to participate, perhaps the final step is society no longer viewing participation alone as an achievement. Most remember the groundbreaking first in sports; few remember the third or fourth to follow in those tracks. That's not downplaying anyone's achievements but rather recognizing that there comes a time when simply being there is no longer good enough for the record books.

Similarly, we are at the point now when a woman making a wide-open dunk should no longer be followed by shock and awe. No, it doesn't happen nearly as often as with their male counterparts, but it has happened often enough that we can stop the Taylor-Swift-OMG-I-won-an-award face. (For that matter, Taylor Swift can stop the Taylor-Swift-OMG-I-won-an-award face, as well.)

Griner's impact on the league will be drastically minimized if coverage of her games is reduced to the number of breakaway dunks she has in them. Griner wasn't the first, and she won't be the last. However, her 2012 Baylor squad was the first -- men's or women's -- to complete a 40-0 season. That's worth stopping and noticing.

And if she crushes one on an opponent, that too would be worth noticing.

But going forward, I hope we save the fireworks for major achievements. And given that we've all known she's been dunking since she was a high school sophomore, I don't think this counts.