Baylor Bears retire Brittney Griner's No. 42 jersey in emotional ceremony for ex-star

Brittney Griner is forever immortalized in Baylor Bears history.

The women's basketball team retired Griner's No. 42 on Sunday at Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas, in what was clearly a special moment for one of college basketball's greatest players.

Griner held her hands over her mouth when a banner featuring her number was revealed and then tapped her chest and sent a kiss to the crowd when fans clapped for her.

"Just full of emotion," Griner told ESPN during the Bears' game against Texas Tech. "As soon as (the jersey) started to go up, that's when I started to break."

Current Baylor coach Nicki Collen stood beside her wearing a gold jacket with Griner's No. 42 on the back and Nike sneakers with the digits on the toes. The two shared a hug during the pregame ceremony.

According to reporter Tyler DeLuca, Griner's former Phoenix Mercury coach Sandy Brondello, who now helms the New York Liberty, was also in attendance.

The school gave away illustrated BG posters and No. 42 T-shirts for the occasion. There was a "Dunk Like BG" contest at halftime and Griner joined in on the fun.

Griner is the seventh women's basketball player to have her number retired by Baylor.

“I’m honored to return home to Baylor and celebrate where so much of my journey started,” Griner said in a statement last month when her jersey retirement ceremony was announced. “I’m grateful to Coach Nicki (Collen) and the entire Baylor community and am looking forward to the opportunity to be back on campus, spend time with the team and have my family beside me to share in this incredible moment. Sic ’Em Bears.”

The Bears won the NCAA championship in 2012, Griner's junior year, after a perfect 40-0 season. Griner averaged 23.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.2 blocks. She was named National Player of the Year by multiple outlets and named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player after tallying 26 points, 13 boards and five blocks in the title game.

In her four year career, Griner scored 3,283 points, good enough for fifth in the women's basketball history books. She finished with 748 blocks, the most in the NCAA among men or women.

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Feb. 18: Brittney Griner has her No. 42 retired by Baylor during a ceremony before a game against Texas Tech at Paul and Alejandra Foster Pavilion.
Feb. 18: Brittney Griner has her No. 42 retired by Baylor during a ceremony before a game against Texas Tech at Paul and Alejandra Foster Pavilion.

After she left college and joined the Mercury as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 WNBA draft, Griner had a strained relationship with Baylor. Current LSU basketball coach Kim Mulkey, who coached Griner at the Big 12 school, reportedly told her to keep her sexual identity private. Griner married her wife, Cherelle, in 2019.

In 2022, Griner was arrested in Russia and detained for nearly 10 months after authorities found vape cartridges in her luggage at the airpot. While the WNBA and United States government officials lobbied for her release, Mulkey largely kept quiet.

Collen expressed her support for Griner after Mulkey chose not to comment on the situation.

"Knowing BG, knowing her, being around her, she's a big kid," Collen said at the time. "To know her is to love her. I mean, honestly, she just is one of those people that radiates joy."

When Collen was hired to replace Mulkey in 2021, she was in touch with Griner and made it a goal to retire her jersey.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Brittney Griner has No. 42 jersey retired by Baylor women's basketball