Brittney Griner hopes to erase distance from Baylor, see jersey retired

Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner says it would mean a lot to her to have her jersey retired at Baylor despite not attending a game at the school since her falling out with former Bears women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey more than eight years ago.

“I’ve seen that special moment with a lot of my teammates and friends at their schools where they gave their all,” Griner said Thursday of the thought of getting her jersey retired. “I met my wife at Baylor. Baylor’s in my blood. I love the school. I love Waco. And it would mean a lot to me, honestly. It’s something I would definitely cherish and love.”

Griner, speaking from Ekaterinburg, Russia, where she plays overseas, said she wishes both her alma mater and Mulkey well. Griner and Mulkey had a falling out in the spring of 2013, after Griner told reporters she was encouraged to keep quiet about her sexuality while at Baylor. Griner came out publicly before being drafted No. 1 overall by the Mercury in 2013. She also wrote a book in 2014 that addressed some of the struggles she had regarding her sexuality.

She said her remarks at the time were not directed toward Mulkey personally but at the general atmosphere of not feeling encouraged to be open about sexuality, and at Baylor’s policies, including a student handbook statement that says sex should be confined to heterosexual marriage. Baylor, a private Baptist university, passed a resolution in May to commit to providing support for all students, “regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” but the resolution also chastised “sexual relations of any kind outside of marriage.”

Mulkey, who left Baylor in April to take over as LSU’s women’s basketball coach, told ESPN she will always be grateful for what Griner did at the school.

Griner said she and Mulkey had a discussion at one point after she left Baylor, but that they are not in contact.

“It’s something I thought maybe we could have talked about,” Griner said of their falling out. “But it wasn’t, really … not with open ears, probably from both sides, from me or her. We’re probably two strong-headed individuals. So it’s tough. But I definitely wish Kim well. I know LSU got a good coach. So I’m happy for her.”

Griner, 31, said her time at Baylor, which included a 40-0 national championship season in 2011-12, was special to her.

“I still love Baylor, and I plan on going back now and seeing a game,” said Griner, who officially completed her degree from the school in the summer of 2019. “I haven’t been to a game since I left [in 2013]. I plan on making my first game hopefully this month and supporting Coach Nicki [Collen] there. I’ve got a lot of respect for her.”

Collen, who took over the Bears job in May, indicated at Big 12 media day in October that retiring Griner’s No. 42 was something Baylor was talking about.

Griner was a three-time Big 12 Player of the Year who holds the Division I record for blocked shots at 748 and is fourth on the career scoring list with 3,283 points. She said she is excited for Baylor and senior star NaLyssa Smith, a possible No. 1 pick who Griner thinks will be an outstanding WNBA player.

“I’m biased, but I am a big fan of hers,” Griner said.

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