Brittney Griner, who was known for her dominance in the post and fierce dunks at Baylor, added the skyhook to her repertoire on Wednesday with a lesson from Lakers legend Kareem Abul-Jabbar.
“I went to legend school today and it was awesome,” Griner said at the Phoenix Mercury’s practice facility.
Griner, who was selected as the No. 1 overall pick in April’s WNBA draft, has been at an intensive training camp, learning just how physical the WNBA can be for a rookie. She has been taught how to pick-and-roll and how to avoid calls for illegal defense.
However, having a Hall of Famer of Abul-Jabbar’s caliber help her add a fundamental shot to her game was more than the rookie could have expected.
The 22-year-old Griner, is too young to have seen Abdul-Jabbar play during his NBA career. But she has watched enough footage of the six-time NBA champion and MVP to understood his impact on basketball.
“I was starstruck right there,” she said. “You know it when I don’t talk; I like to talk and you know I’m starstruck when I’m just listening. I hit you with the ‘yes sir, yes ma’am,’ I’m definitely starstruck.”
Abdul-Jabbar, who accepted the invitation from Mercury vice president Ann Meyers Drysdale, watched the team practice and spoke with the players. After his talk with the team, he began to give Griner tips on how to use her leverage against the defender. The Hall of Famer began to show her how to use skyhooks.
Griner did not appear comfortable at first using the skyhook, partly because of how she was holding the ball. Abdul-Jabbar changed the position she held it, and by the end of the 20-minute session she was appeared to be more at ease.
“She did start to get it, how I used it,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “Not everybody uses the same tool in the same way, so you’ve got to make adjustments to that. But I think with her potential and willingness to learn, she’ll do well.”
Griner acknowledged that she will use the skyhook, but it will take sometime to master the shot.
If Griner can adopt and master the skyhook, she will have an advantage in competition in the WNBA.
“She’s a very talented athlete,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “She’s not just tall, she has some skills. She runs the court very well, she’s active. I think she’s going to have a great career.”