Brittney Griner

Growing up in a rural area of Houston, I dreamed of flying planes and working on cars—pretty much anything but playing basketball.
Brittney Griner
Griner, as a seventh grader on Teague Middle School’s volleyball team, in Humble

When I was born, my family lived near Humble in a quiet neighborhood on a cul-de-sac. I’m the baby, and I have an older brother and two older sisters. My sisters were usually in the house talking on the phone or watching television, but I was always outside. I remember playing in the front yard and climbing trees, but I wasn’t allowed to go any farther because my mother wanted to keep an eye on me. We knew everybody on the street, and I’d wave to people as they drove by. I knew everyone based on the car they drove.

When I got older, we moved to Dayton, out in the country, and lived on about an acre and a half. We had some woods on our property, and I would go back there and hunt squirrels or ride my go-cart—I was always getting into something. It would drive my mom nuts when I went into the woods, because she couldn’t see me. Once, she saw too many snakes and made me come back inside.

I was a daddy’s girl, and I was a tomboy. He got me interested in working on cars at an early age, and I remember that my hands were always oily and my clothes were stained with grease. Our family drove a Honda and a Lexus, and in the evenings we’d work on them out in the driveway. To this day I know how to change the oil and the transmission fluid, and I can fix a flat tire. I even wanted to enroll in auto mechanics in high school, but I wasn’t able to because it conflicted with my basketball schedule.

My dad worked as a police officer in Houston, and he recently retired. He would leave early in the morning, and he’d get home about an hour or so after I got back from school. I’d get a Lunchable and sit in my chair and watch The Magic School Bus . And as soon as that show was over, I would hear him pull up in his police Camaro. I’d run outside in my bare feet—I can still remember tiptoeing across the hot cement—to meet him. I liked to hear stories about his day, and I also liked to hear his stories about when he served in Vietnam. Sometimes he’d get out his scrapbook and show me pictures of himself overseas. When I was really little, I wanted to be in the Air Force, but now I don’t think I could fit in the cockpit.

My dad played football when he was in high school, but my mother was never really into sports. She crocheted and made quilts and blankets for me and my sisters. I loved to watch the Food Network with her, watching documentaries like how candy is made. We still enjoy doing things like that.

In the seventh and eighth grade, I played volleyball and soccer in Humble. Because of my height, I played on the front line on the volleyball team, and I was the goalie on the soccer team. But I didn’t start playing basketball on a team until I was a freshman at Nimitz [Senior] High School, in the Aldine school district. I don’t know why. I didn’t think I was very good, and I didn’t even think I could make the team in the eighth grade. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that this was my sport. 

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