In 2012, after basketball phenom Brittney Griner and her Baylor University teammates won the NCAA women's national championship, she didn't go to Disney World; she grabbed her longboard and went skating for a few hours. Like any skater, Griner attracted the attention of the police.
"We were going down a main street, holding on to the back of my friend's car trying to see how fast we could go and we got pulled over. We definitely got noticed. Right when we were like, 'Let's go home,' we got caught," Griner explained. Tony Hawk would be proud.
As the Global X Games season continues, it was only right to speak with an athlete who was so heavily influenced by action sports early on in life. Recently, XGames.com sat down with Griner in Los Angeles while she was getting a personal tour of Nike's Sixth and Mill skatepark with professional skateboarder Eric Koston to discuss her love of action sports.
XGames.com: How did you get addicted to skateboarding?
Griner: When I was kid I just liked watching the X Games. I saw Tony Hawk skate and it took off from there. I just wanted to do what they were doing for the thrill -- I'm an adrenaline junkie, I guess. I do stupid stuff sometimes. My first week at Baylor I almost got hit by a bus. My board got ran over. I was so mad. I had just bought it. The bus cracked it in half.
Do you like longboarding because you have more room for your feet?
I feel more balanced and safe on a longboard. I wear size 17 and those on a little board are kind of tough. I definitely like longboarding a lot. I like bombing hills. My first time bombing a hill ... I was in college. It was awesome.
I heard that you met Tony Hawk recently and you cried.
I did. I met Tony and I cried and it was the best feeling and best experience ever. Growing up watching him in X Games, I thought I was going to be Tony Hawk -- before I hit my growth spurt.
When I was shorter I was thinking, 'Yeah, I can do this,' but those dreams got killed. When I met him I just couldn't really say anything. I told him he skates well, which was the stupidest comment ever. Why did I say that? Of course he knows that.
I was that 'super fan.' I don't know what it was with Tony. I just idolize him so much from skateboarding, I just couldn't say much.
Did you really hurt your wrist skating?
Yeah, this was while I was in college after we won the national championship my junior year. I was 21, skating in a parking garage. It was a real steep entry way. My friend went down first and he barely made it.
He had a small Sector 9 board and I had a big board and I was thinking, 'I can do this. This is no problem.' I had just got the board and wanted to try it out. I walked down the hill and then got on my board and I knew right away I wasn't going to make it. I picked up speed instantly.
I jumped off the board because I was going so fast I couldn't control my speed and I ended up going straight into a cement wall. I threw my arms up trying to brace myself and snapped my wrist. It was the worst pain of my life. Worse than any basketball injury. I went back to that hill actually and made it.
What do you find so exhilarating about skateboarding?
Skateboarding and hitting hills and carving back and forth is relaxing. It's my time away from basketball, honestly. I think a lot when I'm on my board.
I just don't only skate hills, I like flat ground too. It's just so relaxing, but at the same time when you hit that big hill and look back up at where you came from, nothing beats knowing you just did that.
Was this your first time meeting Eric Koston?
Yeah, today was my first time. I'd definitely heard of him before. I had seen some of his video parts. I'm always on YouTube looking up skate videos and longboarding videos. I watch pretty much anything action sports-related.
Meeting Eric was amazing. Getting to come out to Sixth and Mill and see everything behind the scenes was awesome.
Meeting Eric Koston is a big deal for you?
This is bigger to me than some of the basketball stuff. I do because I grew up wanting to do what they did. I didn't grow up knowing I was going to play basketball. I didn't play basketball until the ninth grade. Growing up I wanted to do what Tony Hawk and Eric Koston were doing. I wanted to do what everyone in action sports was doing.
When did your height get in the way of that dream?
I'd say around seventh or eighth grade I started doing other things like playing volleyball because I was growing. My dad wasn't a fan of action sports because he wasn't trying to take to me to the hospital each time I broke something. My mom didn't want me getting hurt so they encouraged me to do other things. I never gave up on it. As soon I got to college I got a board and I've been doing it ever since, honestly.
Are you still going to skate now that you're the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft and the Phoenix Mercury depending on you?
I'm still going to skate. Basically I've been told not to fall and to skate in a controlled environment, which I interpret as low speed on a sidewalk. I always wear a helmet. I had a helmet on when I got hurt. I just wasn't wearing wrist guards at the time, but now I'll wear wrist guards. I can't do the whole elbow and knee pad sumo suit though.
Will you be coming to X Games in LA the first week of August?
The season starts May 27th so if I can get away during that time I'm definitely going to the X Games.