Brittney Griner is famously known for being an open book.
In her heartfelt memoir, In My Skin, she reflects on the painful episodes in her life that led to her signature openness and candid personality.
Griner has become the world's most famous female basketball player for her impact on the court — as a ferocious dunker and athletic shot blocker at Baylor and now with the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury — and off it — as a role model for speaking out on issues of gender, sexuality, body image and self-esteem. The common thread between both has become her authenticity.
It's been an arduous road to Griner being comfortable in her own skin after years of bullying and taunting for being different — both in appearance and personality.
USA TODAY Sports was provided an exclusive sneak peak at Griner's new book, co-written with Sue Hovey (formerly of ESPN The Magazine), which hits bookshelves on April 8 and touches on a number of controversial topics.
In the book, Griner expressed specific disenchantment with Baylor for its stance on homosexuality. Griner became an open lesbian after an April 2013 interview with USA TODAY Sports in which she discussed coming out to her parents.
"I would love to be an ambassador for Baylor, to show my school pride, but it's hard to do that — it's hard to stand up and say, 'Baylor is the best!' — when the administration has a written policy against homosexuality," Griner wrote in the book. "I've spent too much of my life being made to feel like there's something wrong with me. And no matter how much support I felt as a basketball player at Baylor, it still doesn't erase all the pain I felt there."
Brittney also explores her complicated relationships with two people she loves and respects — her father, Ray, and her coach at Baylor, Kim Mulkey.
Griner made national headlines in May of 2013 when she said Mulkey told her not to be open publicly about her sexuality because it would hurt recruiting. Baylor failed to defend its 2012 national championship in Griner's senior season when Griner and Mulkey's relationship started to unravel.
"Cracks existed beneath the surface. And the game against Louisville, with the pressure cranked up, blew those cracks wide open ... I didn't deliver the way I usually did, and Kim got outcoached. We both underperformed" Griner wrote in the book. "We had created something magical for almost four years, and that night we watched, almost helplessly at times, as it melted away. We were left staring at all our warts and flaws, all the things about each other that drove us crazy. And we didn't have a national championship, the piece of shiny jewelry, to distract us from that reality."
Some other exclusive quotes from Griner's book:
- On accusations that she skipped the 2012 Olympics to avoid gender testing: "I have every intention of playing for the United States at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, if I'm selected for the team. And if some country wants to issue a challenge, bring it on. I don't have anything to hide. I'll do whatever I need to do, prove whatever point I need to prove, so I can play. And then maybe everyone will finally shut up."
- On punching Texas Tech's Jordan Barncastle in March of 2010: "I used to believe fighting was a way for me to control things that felt out of my control. I was trying to take back the power, to show everyone they couldn't just say whatever they wanted about me and trample on my feelings. But I've learned over the years that there are painful consequences for letting my emotions fester, and the real turning point came on March 3, 2010, when I punched Jordan Barncastle during a game at Texas Tech. In the days and weeks that followed, I would come to realize I wasn't in control at all, and that allowing my anger to own me was actually making me more vulnerable, not less.
- More on the fight with Barncastle: "We'd been dancing that line all game, like a pair of boxers, but I had managed to channel my energy and frustration into making big plays. Now all I cared about was hitting her, making her fall. That was the thought flashing through my mind in one split second: Make her fall. ...The second after I hit her, I snapped back to reality, and I knew right away that everything was about to change. I heard the crowd. I heard the boos. I heard the thoughts racing through my head. (Expletive). I just really (expletive) up. This is bad. This is bad. (Expletive). This is my biggest (expletive) ever. I don't even think I could wrap my mind around how big of a mistake it was, how it would haunt me in the years to come. I didn't have any of that perspective yet—I could still feel the anger bubbling inside me—but I knew instantly that it was serious, that I had messed up in a huge way."
Scott Gleeson, a national college basketball writer/digital producer for USA TODAY Sports, is on Twitter at @ScottMGleeson.