Miami Heat forward Shane Battier, who has had his share of pickup basketball games with women, predicts that the NBA will someday have a female player.
“There’s no doubt that in our lifetime, there will be a woman NBA player,” Battier told ESPN.com after Thursday’s Heat practice.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban ignited the conversation about women in the league after his remarks this past week. Cuban said Tuesday night that he would consider drafting Baylor’s Brittney Griner, who is 6-foot-8 and just ended her career with 3,283 points, second most in women’s NCAA Division I history.
Cuban received a lot of skepticism from critics who questioned whether Griner would be able to guard NBA players of similar height. Mavs’ star forward Dirk Nowitzki noted that you have to be athletic and fast in order to play in the NBA.
“It’s tough,” Nowitzki said. “… You’ve got be able to go by people, guard people on the other end, chase people off of screen-and-rolls and post up.”
Battier agreed with Nowitzki’s assessment that the first female NBA player will have to be athletic, but he was unsure whether that would be Griner or someone else. He said that she will have to have a combination of athleticism and strength like fellow Heat teammate, LeBron James.
Throughout Battier’s career in the NBA, he has had to defend bigger and stronger guards/forwards, which has not been easy for him. He acknowledged that strength is the biggest factor in defending post players.
“Look, I’m 6-foot-8, 220 pounds and I guard [Indiana Pacers power forward] David West and [Chicago Bulls power forward] Carlos Boozer,” Battier said. “I lift weights twice a week and I think I’m strong as a 34-year-old man. And I struggle with those guys.”
Battier pointed to fellow Duke alumna and current Los Angeles Sparks star Alana Beard, who scored 2,687 points in her career as a Blue Devil, as an example. He said that in the pickup games that she could play and handle the ball, but did not stand out against the men playing.
“But we’ll see it,” he said. “It’ll happen in our lifetime. Just the law of averages.”