Brittney Griner learns the finer points of acting from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Barry Gossage/ Getty).
Legendary NBA center Hakeem Olajuwon has created something of a second career for himself as a teacher of post moves to stars and promising young players alike. Hakeem's tutees are presumably drawn to him because of his reputation as a master of post moves, and it doesn't hurt that many of his previous students have seen success.
On the other hand, it's not as if Olajuwon should have a monopoly on working with professional basketball players looking to improve their interior games. While he may be particularly well known for his varied moves in the post, there have been plenty of big men with go-to scoring tactics worth imparting to a younger generation. It's unclear why another legend couldn't step up to fill a similar role.
Perhaps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will be that person. At a recent practice, Abdul-Jabbar taught one notable pro center his patented sky hook. Of course, she's not in the NBA. From John Marshall for the Associated Press:
After getting a crash course in professional basketball from some of the WNBA's best players over the past week, Griner was given the lesson of a lifetime on Wednesday with a one-on-one session on the skyhook with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
One of the NBA's greatest players teaching the nuances of perhaps the most unstoppable move in any sport? Yeah, that's pretty cool.
''I went to legend school today and it was awesome,'' Griner said at the Phoenix Mercury's practice court inside the US Airways Center. [...]
''I was star struck right there,'' Griner said. ''You know it when I don't talk; I like to talk and you know I'm star struck when I'm just listening. I hit you with the yes sir, yes ma'am, I'm definitely star struck.''
The tutorial was put together by Mercury Vice President Ann Meyers Drysdale, who asked the NBA office to see if Abdul-Jabbar would be available to address the team and work with Griner.
The circumstances surrounding this workout are obviously a little different than those with Olajuwon — a Phoenix Mercury executive (and Hall of Famer in her own right) set it up, Kareem spoke to the team in some kind of broader capacity, and Griner only worked with him for an hour. In many ways, it comes across as a less single-minded encounter, something that could double as a photo op in addition to whatever (presumably very real) instruction occurred.
At the same time, the public relations aspect of the meeting between Griner and KAJ is not to dismissed. In many ways, they have a lot in common. As a collegian at UCLA in the late '60s, Kareem (then Lew Alcindor) was seen as the kind of interior force who could remake the game, a unique talent who often appeared to be playing a wholly different sport from his opponents. Griner was the same way at Baylor, particularly at the defensive end. She has an ability to cover ground and stymie an opponent's offense that women's basketball just hasn't seen before. She can be a similarly revolutionary player for the WNBA and possibly change the way its teams play the game forever.
Whatever success Griner has won't take place because of an hour training session with an NBA legend, but it's also true that this meeting can get us to approach her career in a way similar to how basketball fans once looked at Kareem. The potential is there.
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