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Brittney Griner Finally Gets Her Jersey Retired By University Of Baylor

Griner’s lengthy list of accomplishments and accolades include leading Baylor to the first 40-0 national championship season in NCAA history.

Brittney Griner had not been back to the program that she helped turn into a national championship contender since her last game played for the Baylor Bears in 2013. As The Athletic reports, that all changed on Feb. 17, when Griner took part in a halftime slam dunk competition during the university’s game against Texas Tech ahead of her jersey retirement ceremony.

Griner decided to get involved by attempting to throw one of the contestants a few lobs, the first one missed him entirely and the second mistimed his jump, so he was forced to attempt a layup instead of a slam dunk. Griner, never one to miss an opportunity to dunk the basketball, decided to play to the crowd and throw down one of her signature one handed dunks. The moment was fitting, as no women’s player has dunked the basketball more than Griner, who did it 18 times over the course of her four-year career at Baylor.

It had been 12 years since Baylor fans and alumni had seen Griner in any capacity at the University of Baylor, and it was beyond time that her number 42 jersey hung in the rafters of Foster Pavilion alongside six others. Current Baylor women’s head coach Nicki Collen told The Athletic at an alumni event that she just wanted to see Griner embraced by the university and have her moment. “All I wanted was Brittney to feel loved, by our team, by our university, by our community,” Collen said. “It was emotional to see her tears. It was emotional to see her smiles yesterday. Whether this is healing or whatever, she’s a part of our family and I’m so grateful that we were able to get this done.”

Griner’s lengthy list of accomplishments and accolades, including leading Baylor to the first 40-0 national championship season in NCAA history, underscores what an obvious move this should have been for the University of Baylor. This honor is one that should not have been in the position to be sidelined by Griner’s highly-publicized detainment by Russia. To her credit, the enshrinement of Griner is something that Collen made a priority once she was hired by the university in 2021. Of course, it goes without saying that a big part of the reason it took so long for the university to make this happen, outside of the detainment and working out the logistics between Griner, the WNBA, and USA Basketball, is that Baylor finally had a coach who was willing to prioritize Griner.

Also on hand at the jersey retirement ceremony were Phoenix Mercury staff, which included team president Vince Kozar, former head coach Sandy Brondello, and current coaches Kristi Toliver, Michael Joiner, and newly minted head coach Nate Tibbetts as well as the GM of the Mercury, Nick U’Wren.

During an interview conducted by ESPN’s Sheryl Swoopes and Brenda VanLegen, Griner noted that witnessing her jersey be revealed made the 6-9 center feel “seen” and perhaps that is as much as Griner is going to say publicly, at least to the media. However, it is clear from her actions during the retirement ceremony that she clearly still carries a deep love for the university and its fans that even a 12-year hiatus could not extinguish. Griner belongs at the University of Baylor and she deserves to feel loved and honored and cherished by it, not simply because of what she did for the university’s women’s basketball program, but for what she means to it. 

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