Brittney Griner - History Month

Brittney Griner - History Month

Brittney Griner stands as a seven-time WNBA All-Star, clinching two Olympic gold medals and championing LGBTQ rights. She has etched her name among the pantheon of women's basketball legends. Following her widely covered detainment in Russia, she made a resolute pledge to aid fellow Americans held abroad.

Born in Houston, Texas, Griner exhibited an exceptional talent for basketball from an early age. During her junior year in high school, a YouTube compilation showcasing her extraordinary dunks garnered nearly seven million views.

Griner obliterated records, guiding her high school team to victory in the Texas 5A girls’ basketball state championship. Her stellar performance earned her a spot on the 2009 WBCA High School All-America team, and May 7, 2009, was officially designated as “Brittney Griner Day” by the mayor of Houston.

Baylor University extended a basketball scholarship to Griner, where she proceeded to set numerous records, solidifying her status as one of the finest shot blockers in women's basketball history. In 2012, she led Baylor to an unprecedented 40-0 season (a historic feat for any college basketball team) and clinched an NCAA title. Griner garnered prestigious accolades, including the Naismith and Wooden Awards, along with the AP Player of the Year title.

The Phoenix Mercury drafted Griner in 2013. That very year, she publicly came out as a lesbian and earned a spot as a WNBA All-Star. In 2014, she played a pivotal role in the Mercury's triumph in the WNBA finals — a third-time victory for the team. Griner also made history as the first openly gay athlete to secure a Nike endorsement deal. She penned her memoir, “In My Skin: My Life On and Off the Basketball Court,” co-authored with Sue Hovey, candidly recounting her experiences as an African-American lesbian.

In 2015, Griner entered matrimony with fellow player Glory Johnson. However, a month prior, both were arrested in connection with a domestic dispute and faced a seven-game suspension. The marriage concluded in divorce after a year.

In 2019, Griner wed Cherelle Watson and secured a spot on the WNBA All-Star team for the sixth time. She also contributed significantly to the U.S. women’s Olympic basketball team's victories in 2016 and 2021, claiming gold medals on both occasions.

As with many WNBA players, Griner pursued additional income by competing overseas during the off-season. In February 2022, Russian authorities discovered a prescription cannabis vape cartridge in her luggage at an airport. She was arrested on charges of alleged drug smuggling and handed a nine-year sentence in a penal colony. After persistent efforts, President Biden successfully negotiated Griner’s release in December 2022 through a one-for-one prisoner exchange.

In 2023, TIME magazine recognized Griner on its prestigious list of the 100 most influential people. She currently resides in Arizona with her wife and continues to make strides on the court for the Phoenix Mercury.

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