May 1 2013 2:55PM

24 Seconds with Brittney Griner


Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images

Two weeks ago today, the Phoenix Mercury surprised absolutely no one when they selected Brittney Griner with the top pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft. The 6-8 center out of Baylor, who has received more national attention than any player in the history of the women's game, sat down with HOOP magazine editor-at-large Jeramie McPeek to talk about the whole draft experience, as well as her love of bacon, snakes, wrestling and longboarding.

:24 HOOP:What was draft night like for you? Was it what you had imagined?
GRINER: When I got there for rookie orientation, it was like, "Okay, this is cool. I'm not going to lose my composure or get teary eyed." Then on draft day, when they said, "10 seconds" until the show comes on, my heart started going really fast. They said, "five seconds," and it started slowing down. Then they said my name and it was like my heart stopped. I was thinking, "Get up! Get up!" So I got up and hugged my dad and my godfather, and I went up there. My eyes started watering and got all red. I just got caught up in the moment and I didn't want to let go. I couldn't even talk during the interview with [ESPN's] Holly Rowe.

:23 HOOP: She thought you were nervous, but it was actually emotions?
GRINER: Yeah, a lot of emotions. It was like, "This day has finally come! I can say I am a professional athlete."

:22 HOOP: When did you first start to dream about playing in the WNBA?
GRINER: I didn't start hooping until ninth grade, so I would say like my junior year of high school, I started thinking about it. And once I got into college, I was like, "Yeah, I really think I can do it."

:21 HOOP: Who were some of the players you enjoyed watching?
GRINER: I loved watching Sylvia Fowles at LSU...Seimone Augustus, Cappie Pondexter, Lisa Leslie, of course. I went to a couple of Houston Comets games when I was younger. At the time, I didn't think I would play, but it was cool to watch them out there hooping.

:20 HOOP: Do you remember the Comets' championships or were you too young?
GRINER: I was young. I just remember them winning and everybody talking about them around town.

:19 HOOP: I don't know if you remember this, but the Mercury actually played the Comets in the WNBA Finals in 1998.
GRINER: No. I was like 7 or 8 at that time. I was into X-Games and action sports, thinking I was going to be the next Tony Hawk.

:18 HOOP: You got a chance to meet Tony Hawk on draft day at the ESPN studios. What did that mean to you?
GRINER: It meant a lot. That was my idol. I wanted to be him so bad. He is the legend of skateboarding. I remember just watching him all through his career, and everything he did. I remember him being in the movie Jackass [laughs]. He came around the corner and I just got choked up, teary eyed. I couldn't really say anything. I told him he skates well. I'm pretty sure he already knew that he skates well [laughs]. I was like a 6-year-old, "You're so cool!" I actually saw him again later in the day and was a little bit calmer, and actually talked to him.

:17 HOOP: When did you start skateboarding?
GRINER: I never really did skateboarding. I had inline skates and rode my bike always, trying to jump off stuff, coming off curves, just doing crazy stuff around the neighborhood. I got into longboarding when I got into college. That's when I first saw longboarding and I was like, "That looks like it's okay for tall people." You know, the center of gravity and balance are better, so I got into it and I've been doing it ever since.

:16 HOOP: What do you enjoy about it?
GRINER: : It's relaxing. It's like my time away. I normally go at night and put on some music. I just ride and think about a lot of stuff. I like the thrill of carving back and forth down the street, coming down parking garages. It's just fun.

:15 HOOP: How many boards do you have?
GRINER: I have like five or six.


Barry Gossage (2)/NBAE/Getty Images

:14 HOOP: Tell us about your new longboard that the Mercury President Amber Cox presented to you.
GRINER: My Mercury board is amazing! I was actually coming back to the hotel after the draft to get some pizza. I didn't know it was going to turn into my signing party. When I walked in and I saw the board, I was just like blown away. And then the artwork! I see me in my Mercury jersey, and it had like bacon on the bottom, and "established 1990."¯ The grip on the top was like a cutout of me dunking. I was just so thankful and I was like, "So this means I can board, right?"

:13 HOOP: So you went skating in the hotel parking lot?
GRINER: Yeah, that was awesome. I was like, "Y'all know I've got to test it out. I've got to break it in."¯ So I took it to the parking lot, I took a couple of kicks and I was gone. I took off and was just having a blast. It was cold, too, but I didn't even care.

:12 HOOP: Was Amber sweating?
GRINER: A little bit. She was like, "Alright, let's pick it up and go back in now."¯

:11 HOOP: Has she made you take the wheels off yet?
GRINER: No, the wheels are still on. I rode it the other day on the (US Airways Center) practice court. There are padded walls, so it's a controlled environment [laughs].

:10 HOOP: You mentioned the bacon on the board. How much bacon do you eat in a week?
GRINER: In a week? If I have my way, I'll eat a pack of bacon a day. I could probably eat a pound of bacon at a time. I have an obsession with bacon. I love it. I crave it. If I smell it, I just forget everything. I was doing an interview in the press room downstairs and they were making BLT sandwiches and my nose just started flaring. I told the reporter, "I'm sorry, but IS SOMEONE MAKING BACON?!"

:09 HOOP: Have you tried bacon on a hot-fudge sundae?
GRINER: I don't like the whole ice cream and bacon thing. I don't like to put it on everything. I'll eat it on my burgers or eat it straight. My girlfriend actually made me some chicken breast stuffed with bacon and it was delicious!

:08 HOOP: She made you some bacon roses, too, didn't she?
GRINER: Yes, she made me the bacon roses, as well. I went to class and she told me to come back to the apartment, because she had a surprise for me. I walked in and she had made bacon roses for me. I was like, "Oh my gosh, thank you! Take a picture, because I'm going to kill these." I just tore those things up.


Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images

:07 HOOP: Let's stick with your diet. From your Instagram pics, it looks like you live on bacon, Starbucks, Red Bull, candy and Pringles.
GRINER: Yeah, that's a college student diet really. I eat okay. I don't really do the whole vegetables thing, or fruit. I'll go and get a Jamba Juice or Smoothie King, and that's how I get my fruit. I'll be like, "Mix in the healthy stuff I need. Just don't tell me what it is."

:06 HOOP: We love how you brought Red Bull and Skittles with you for this interview.
GRINER: And water! You gotta stay hydrated.

:05 HOOP: You talked about your Mercury longboard, but you didn't mention the large snake painted on the underside. You own a snake, right?
GRINER: Two snakes. Albino corn snakes. Sage is a bright red and yellowish color. She's really little. And then Audi is a real light gray color. She's the biggest one. She's pretty big.

:04 HOOP: How did you become interested in snakes?
GRINER: My brother had a snake when I was growing up. I just thought that was the coolest thing ever. I thought they were misunderstood. Everybody is real scared of them, but they're just chill. So I've always liked them and when I got my own place, I was finally able to get one.

:03 HOOP: We were going to ask if you picked it up on your swamp tour in New Orleans during the Final Four.
GRINER: No, I didn't get it on my swamp tour [laughs]. That was crazy and cool at the same time. It was my first time in a swamp and my first time on an air boat. It was amazing. I saw a lot of alligators, got to hold a little baby alligator. It was amazing. If we had just ridden through the swamp without seeing any animals, that still would have been cool.

:02 HOOP: And you ate alligator, right?
GRINER: Yes, I ate alligator. That was so good. I had frog legs and seared duck breast. I like lots of different animals, too. I eat everything—deer, ostrich, lamb, goat.

:01 HOOP: We hear you were a big fan of WWE legend Jake "The Snake"¯ Roberts growing up?
GRINER: Oh yeah, my dad was BIG into wrestling. Whenever it came on, everybody had to be quiet. I was a big daddy's girl, so I was always right there with him, and [Roberts] brought out that big albino python and would put it on people, and they would freak out. I was like, "Yes! I want to touch the snake. I want the snake to be on me." I always liked him and guys like Sting and Hulk Hogan.

OVERTIME


Justin Edmonds/Getty Images Sport
HOOP: Are you still a wrestling fan?
GRINER: I still catch it, Smackdown and RAW. I remember watching Degeneration X with Triple H. I liked Stone Cold Steve Austin. He was one of my favorites, honestly. I remember when he drove the beer truck down to the ring and he sprayed Vince McMahon with beer.

HOOP: We talked about your snakes, Jake the Snake, and the "Texas Rattlesnake," Stone Cold. Sticking with the theme, this past week, you hung out with the Arizona Diamondbacks and flipped the coin at an Arizona Rattlers arena football game.
GRINER: That was cool. I hadn't been to a baseball game since I was a little girl in Houston, going to an Astros game. But it was fun. I got a Diamondbacks jersey, met some of the players, the owner and the coach. I got to stand on the field, behind the cage, while they were batting before the game. I was like, "Wow! There is no way I could hit that ball." I could barely even see it. I'm a little blind.

HOOP: That game was at Yankees Stadium on Jackie Robinson Day. That had to be special for you.
GRINER: It was. Everybody had on the 42 and my number is 42, of course, so it was just great to be there.

HOOP: You actually chose 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson, right?
GRINER: Well, I had the number before I knew the whole story, but I wanted to change my number at one point. Then I heard his story and all that he went through, the race barrier that he broke through and all the torment that he got, all the criticism, and how people threw black cats on the field. People were so rude to him, but he couldn't say anything. He couldn't react. And I could relate to that a little bit, because I've gone into arenas where people said awful, mean and hateful things to me. I can't say anything back or they'll just feed on that, "Oh yeah, I got to her!" So when I heard his story, I had to keep that number.


Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images
HOOP: Have you seen the movie 42 yet?
GRINER: I haven't had time yet, but definitely when I get back to Waco, I am going to go see that.

HOOP: Are you more anxious to see that or Iron Man 3? We know you're a big fan of superhero movies.
GRINER: Iv'e got to see 42 first and then Iron Man 3. Actually, I'll probably wait until Iron Man comes out and then go see them back to back. I'll go in the morning and see 42 and then stay and see Iron Man. I don't read comic books, but I love the comic-book movies. I loved the Avengers, Captain America, Wolverine, X-Men, Spider-Man. Batman [The Dark Knight] was by far the greatest movie ever, with the Joker. So crazy!

HOOP: Okay, tell us about playing in Larry Fitzgerald's charity softball game this past weekend.
GRINER: I wasn't going to be able to do it at first, because my older sister is having her first little girl. But once he said he would bring me out and send me back the same day, I knew I wouldn't miss a lot, so I couldn't turn that down.

HOOP: You guys have been tweeting back and forth. It seems like you've really connected with him.
GRINER: I've always been a fan of football and I've been a fan of his. He is a tremendous athlete, so I was happy I got to meet him. We played a little game of Pop-A-Shot, so I guess we bonded. Talking to him, I could just tell he was real cool, down to earth. He wanted to talk to me. It wasn't like he had to talk to me. He really wanted to. I can't wait to see the [Arizona Cardinals] play.

HOOP: Did you compare hair at all?
GRINER: No, but I definitely let him know that his hair is awesome. I love it!

HOOP: Who was your NFL team growing up?
GRINER: The Pittsburgh Steelers. They were my team that I watched a lot. Just a hard-hitting team. Ernie Holmes, who played back in the '70s, I think, is on my dad's side of the family. So when I found that out, I was definitely a Steelers fan.

HOOP: Let's get back to basketball. A lot of people have said that you're going to be a transcendent player in the WNBA. What are your personal goals coming into the league? What do you hope to accomplish?
GRINER: I just want to bring a little bit different part of the game to the league; just playing above the rim, blocking shots, dunking and playing with a high intensity. I want to bring that and excite the crowd. A lot of people say, "It's not exciting to watch the women play,"¯ and I ask them, "Well, how many games have you been to?" They're like, "Oh, well, I haven't been to a game,"¯ and I'm like, "Then how do you know?"¯ But I've had a lot of people tell me they're going to start watching because I'm here. If I can get them to come, they'll see everybody else and see the talent level, and see how exciting the women's game can be.

HOOP: Do you enjoy dunking or blocking somebody more?
GRINER: Blocking shots. But I just started dunking more at the end of my senior season and it's starting to get up there with blocked shots now. I'm starting to enjoy that more and more.

HOOP: What does it feel like?
GRINER: Blocking a shot is like taking a ball from them. "NO! REJECTED!"¯ And dunking the ball is just so powerful. It's like "ARRRRR!"¯ I want to rip the rim off the goal.

HOOP: How are you feeling about playing with Diana Taurasi?
GRINER: Definitely exited to play with Dee. I got to play with her a little bit with USA Basketball last summer. That was amazing. She was a floor general. There wasn't anything that she couldn't do. So to have somebody who can hit the three consistently like that if I get doubled actually everybody around me can shoot and everybody on this team can score. So it's going to be like, "Pick your poison."¯

HOOP: What can WNBA fans expect from the Phoenix Mercury this summer?
GRINER: A lot of wins. A lot of Ws, a lot of alley-oops, a lot of dunks and a lot of intensity.