Keeping Score

Can a Woman Play In the NBA?

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says he might select Baylor's Brittney Griner in the NBA draft. Is he serious?

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Baylor center Brittney Griner

On Tuesday, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made waves — shocker, I know — by suggesting that he would be open to selecting 6’8″ Baylor center Britney Griner in the second round of this year’s NBA draft. Or he’d invite Griner, probably the most dominant player in women’s basketball history, to play on Dallas’ summer league team. Said Cuban, via ESPN Dallas/Fort Worth:

“If she is the best on the board, I will take her … I’ve thought about it. I’ve thought about it already. Would I do it? Right now, I’d lean toward yes, just to see if she can do it. You never know unless you give somebody a chance, and it’s not like the likelihood of any late-50s draft pick has a good chance of making it.”

Cuban admitted that the move would have strong marketing potential. At the very least, it would draw more interest in the NBA summer league. “That’d sell out a few games,” Cuban said.

(MORE: U.S. Women Win Fifth Consecutive Basketball Gold. Will The WNBA Benefit?)

But at least one prominent women’s coach isn’t buying Cuban’s talk. Geno Auriemma, the women’s coach at UConn, and coach of the U.S. national team that won gold in London last summer, had this to say during a teleconference:

“Obviously Mark Cuban is a genius because he’s been able to parlay some great ideas into billion dollar industries and he’s done a great job as owner of the Dallas Mavericks. He’s won an NBA championship and he’s done an awful lot for basketball. His genius would take a huge hit if he drafted Brittney Griner. And if Brittney Griner tries to make it to an NBA team, I think it would be a public relations thing and I think it would be a sham. The fact that a woman could actually play right now in the NBA and compete successfully against the level of play that they have is absolutely ludicrous.”

In an email response to USA Today, Cuban emphasized that Griner would have to excel in pre-draft workouts in order to be drafted.

“I have no problem giving her that opportunity … I hope she gives it a shot. Nothing harms an organization or company more than a closed mind.”

Griner seems to be on board. “@mcuban so when do I show up for tryouts” Griner tweeted.

Even if Cuban’s chatter is something of a publicity stunt … so what? If Cuban is offering Griner at least a chance, and Griner wants to take the opportunity, that would be great for basketball. NBA teams have drafted women players before. In 1969, the San Francisco Warriors selected a high school student, Denise Long, in the 13th round; Long had averaged a cool 69.6 points per game in her senior year. Then-NBA commissioner Walter Kennedy voided the pick, since the NBA did not allow high school players to be drafted at the time (he also deemed it a pure publicity stunt). In 1977, the New Orleans Jazz picked Lusia Harris, from Delta State, in the seventh round. But she did not try out; it turned out that Harris was pregnant at the time.

Cuban is unlikely to draft Griner. The NBA draft has only two rounds now. So although late-second round picks are unlikely to make a team, they’re still assets. Cuban knows publicity, and he’s aware that if a player selected after Griner goes on to have a successful NBA career, he’ll get pilloried.

But what’s the harm of inviting Griner to camp as a free agent? That’s also happened before; Ann Myers, of UCLA, participated in a three-day tryout with the Indiana Pacers in 1979.  (She didn’t make it). Or why shouldn’t Griner suit up for a summer league game? There, she’d have a fair shot to prove if she can compete. Everyone would be watching. And if you’re an NBA owner like Cuban, what’s wrong with everyone watching your team?

MORE: Q&A – UConn Women’s Basketball Coach Geno Auriemma

114 comments
KelleyDavis
KelleyDavis

And today we are talking about Donald Sterling's comments on tape about black players and OH the outrage but when it comes to women....not so much. Hypocrisy anyone? 

Typho0n
Typho0n

If women get into the NBA, i want men in the WNBA to be fair!

rocksburynevins
rocksburynevins

Look at guys like Tony parker, or Lowry and tell me Women can't play in the NBA. Those guys get knocked around and manage to use skill over size. Just like Cuban said, If she is the best option at that time then without a doubt you should take that opportunity. 

Has anyone watched Aron Gray for the Raptors....She can't be worse then that guy was. Hell look at all the scrub players barely making it. Sure just like in any sport you throw a chick in and she is not going to dominate like Durant or Shaq but hell if she contributes to the team and helps financially take her and play her. 


We should have Women playing as Pitchers in the MLB, Playing as Goalies in the NHL, Kickers in the NFL and Point Guards in the NBA. We don't because rich old white guys own sports and they grew up believing somethings that are not true. Give it ten years and it will be common. 

keropsy
keropsy

@TIME If the referees won't call a contact foul on a couple who happens to be playing from opposing teams.

BBFCreativeEnt
BBFCreativeEnt

@TIME Yes! If a woman can fight in combat, she should be able to be employed in the NBA. Pro Sports--a bastion of segregation. Am I correct?

Corey Jones
Corey Jones

invite her for a try out, but don't just sign her! the nba is not as simple as it looks on tv! :)

Nick Albright
Nick Albright

if in her first year or so in the WNBA she completely rips it up then sure give her the chance but using a draft pick is just straight crazy. IMHO she will get destroyed in the paint.

pswic71667
pswic71667

One, why draft her when he can pick her up off the free agent scrap heap later? Two, it is all fun and games until someone gets hurt. When she gets an elbow in the face, there will be a call for the NBA to change the rules so women can compete on an even footing. Just wait.

Lyle Ketchum
Lyle Ketchum

If she gets on the team I'm gonna drop 120lbs and try out for the wnba just to see if they would be as accepting.

Wesley Nicholas
Wesley Nicholas

she's not athletic enough. and she's not skilled enough as a shooter to compensate. but she would sell some tickets.

Philly Mark
Philly Mark

no, she needs to get back to the ktchen, sandwich making is their true art form

Sigit Pratomo
Sigit Pratomo

No offense ladies, but I think NBA is waaaaayyy of your league. That's why the WNBA is created, to give you, ladies, a proper place to play competitively in basketball.

Michael McFarland
Michael McFarland

her slam dunking skills are not the same. She'd never survivie on the boards. stupid.

Kaff Enated
Kaff Enated

Give her a chance. I'm skeptical, but if it's worth the investment from a marketing standpoint, why not give it a try?

Nicki McAleer
Nicki McAleer

Has anyone ever thought about the possibility that she may not feel challenged among women and will only reach her full potential (and completely blow everyone away) in the NBA simply because she HAS to play harder to succeed?

Alex Stefan Russo
Alex Stefan Russo

He will not because he will get criticized by Dallas if a player chosen after her in the draft turns out to be a grand success. This is just a publicity stunt that he did to get attention for the Mavs and their summer league.

Robert Elder
Robert Elder

Jackie Robinson was not innately weaker than those he played with; bad comparison.

Robert Elder
Robert Elder

Nope: the best woman in the world is not as good as a middling male playing college ball

Rob Czajkowski
Rob Czajkowski

I think it's obvious Time Magazine is trolling us. Nobody is stupid enough to let women ruin the NBA.

David James Papa
David James Papa

Cheryl Miller coulda played she was a better shooter than Reggie

Ryan Bliss
Ryan Bliss

I'm not saying women can't be competitive, or even dominant. I'm saying that most male athletes have no interest in competing with them. They want to show they a better than the next guy and they don't get the same testosterone rush from dunking on a woman as they do dunking on a 7' monster.

Natasha Coe
Natasha Coe

Uh, I wrestled with men, where a big part of that is grappling and touching. Athletes know what they're getting into when they play a sport.

David Houghton
David Houghton

I say let the "free market" decide, so to speak. If she's good, she'll get playing time. If she's bad, the team will bench her then release her. Either way, it's worth trying.

David Houghton
David Houghton

By the way, that's what people said about baseball before Jackie Robinson played.

David Houghton
David Houghton

... and men can't stand it when they come up short compared to women. At anything. I say let her in. If she's good, she'll stay. If she's bad, the team will release her. If she blocks a man's shot, we can watch him either deal with it like a man or start crying. Either way, good TV.

David Houghton
David Houghton

Most NBA players are too immature to stand losing to a woman.

Alex Wolff
Alex Wolff

if Dallas wants to waste a pick then let them

Lenny B Behyia
Lenny B Behyia

Everything is possible in America. People with same same sex are getting marrie and adopting childrend.Others are even asking them to grow up when they don't want em gays in the locker rooms! Ce n'est pas possible! What do you all want??

Vince Enovaihsc
Vince Enovaihsc

The top-paid player in the WNBA makes $91,000 a year. The league minimum in the NBA is $490,180. Something to think about for those of you who keep saying she should just stick to the WNBA.

ThatBoyInno
ThatBoyInno

@swambi Cuban is smart at everything else except basketball even Dirk Nowitzki told him to STFU about bball. LOL

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