Monday, March 09, 2009

Awesome, And Awesome Again

I don't know about you, but when I experience something awesome, no matter what it is, I feel different. There's this +7 Glow of Pure Awesomeness that I have after I see a great movie, or read a great book, or play a great game.

Last Monday, I linked to a video of Brittney Griner, a 6'8' high-school girl who is nothing short of superhuman. She dunks, and by dunk I mean slam dunk, and with bad intent.

It was astonishing.

I didn't realize on Monday that the girl's state championships were beginning on Friday, and I also didn't realize that Brittney Griner, The Girl From Another Planet, would be playing at 8:30 p.m.

Twenty minutes from my house.

I hadn't seen a girl's high school basketball game since I was 17, but I drove down to the Erwin Center on Friday morning and bought tickets for myself and my friend Mike (and his daughter Emily, who I call The Big Fundamental for her basketball skills).

When Aldine Nimitz, Griner's team, came out for warmups, I was only half paying attention, because the game wasn't going to start for twenty minutes.

Griner got in the lay-up line and started warm-up drills. Then she dunked, a one-handed dunk that was so easy it looked like she wasn't even trying.

The crowd exploded.

Her next time in the line, she did a two-handed jam and hung on the rim.

The next time, she did a semi-windmill dunk.

I'm in shock at this point. "Have I lost my mind?" I ask Mike. I can't believe what I'm seeing. She dunks the next two times through the line, but I'm in shock by then, so I can't remember what she did. Then a teammate throws her an alley oop and she slams it home one-handed.

The entire crowd, myself included, has pretty much lost its mind. It's totally electric.

At that point, the crowd starts booing. Loudly. I can't figure out why until I see the referees. See, it's illegal to dunk during warmups, and if the referees see you, it's a technical foul. So the referees arriving meant that she couldn't dunk anymore.

Nimitz is playing Pflugerville, a 5A power that has an excellent team.

Griner was double-teamed the entire game, and every girl that guarded her was banging on her hard. I was amazed by the physicality of the game.

She scored 44 points on 19-21 shooting. 6-8 from the line. 18 rebounds. 8 blocks (and I counted 13, so I'm not sure what the official scorer was watching). 5 assists (should have been 9 if teammates hadn' t missed wide-open layups).

Turnovers? Zero.

She took jumpers from the elbow. She shot a baby hook. She turned around and hit jumpers off the glass. When she took an entry pass, she never lowered the ball below her shoulders. She was a great passer.

In other words, she was fundmentally flawless.

Oh, and by the end of the game, she was the fastest player on the court. She never came out and got stronger as the game went on.

In the third quarter, she caught the ball at the elbow, spun around the girl who was behind her, took two steps and slammed home a ferocious two-handed dunk.

Nimitz won 74-47.

Look, I'm a skeptic. About anything. But I'm a skeptic who wants to believe in greatness--I just don't see it very often. I don't think I've ever seen an athlete, though, no matter the level, not just live up to the hype but obliterate it. It wasn't a great "women's sports" performance--it was a great athletic performance by a great athlete.

As I was walking back to my car after the game, I realized I had that +7 Glow Of Pure Awesomeness.

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