Baylor should retire Brittney Griner’s number.



( Among the many celebrities and notable people in attendance of the 2023 NAACP Image Awards was WNBA star Brittney Griner. During the event, Griner made an appearance on stage with her wife, Cherelle, and addressed the audience saying, “I want to thank everyone”. Griner also made a plea to fight for American detainees overseas as she added, “Let’s fight to bring home every American detained overseas.” Last year, Brittney Griner famously returned back home to the U.S. in December 2023 after being held in a Russian prison for almost a year on drug charges. Her situation gained widespread support from many in the basketball community, the WNBA, NBA, and sports leagues globally over the course of her detainment. While it is debatable whether Griner was a political prisoner in the vein of Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, or Julian Assange, she was arguably more well-known by the average American than those three due to her accomplishments, celebrity culture, and unique basketball career prior to her situation with Russia.

Brittney Griner recently signed a one-year contract to stay with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and will be one of the stories of the 2023 WNBA season given she hasn’t played since 2021 due to missing the 2022 WNBA season while in detention in Russia. The WNBA doesn’t have the acclaim of any of the four major North American sports leagues but Griner is one of the all-time greats in WNBA history having made “The W25” which was the Women’s National Basketball Association’s Top 25 Players of All Time, chosen in 2021 on the occasion of the 25th season of the WNBA. During her most recent season in 2021, Griner was an All-Star who averaged 20.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game.

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Regardless of the sport, there is a lot of pressure for any athlete chosen with the first overall pick of their respective draft and Brittney Griner had to live up to being the first overall pick of the 2013 WNBA Draft that would bring even more attention to a person who has had to deal with attention for years given her rare size and skills. Her collegiate career at Baylor established her as a star in the basketball world for many reasons from her jaw-dropping six-foot nine-inch height, ability to dunk, and an unfortunate and ugly on-court fight in 2010 that broke an opposing player’s nose. The uniqueness of Brittney Griner’s college career shouldn’t overlook her on-court impact of earning four Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year awards, three Big 12 Player of the Year nods and being twice honored as the AP Player of the Year in women’s basketball.

Baylor is one of the few universities that have high level men’s and women’s college basketball programs. Former Baylor women’s basketball head coach Kim Mulkey is a Hall of Fame head coach for her accomplishments in making Baylor a top five women’s program for several seasons which included three national championships. There is no way she would have the 2012 undefeated national championship Baylor team without Brittney Griner, who despite her accolades, doesn’t have her number retired like many college all-time greats do. Because of Griner’s sexuality and Baylor being a private Baptist university, that might be a reason for the school not honoring one of its best athletes ever but that’s an archaic reason. Given Griner’s recent release from Russian detainment, it is time to give her the honor of retiring her jersey number “42” because of her overall collegiate impact on Baylor University.

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Staff Writer; Mark Hines