Rolling eyes and sarcastic snarls have been filling the Team USA Basketball locker room over the last couple of weeks after a member from the women’s team challenged one of the more burly, bigger members from the men’s team.
United States’ Brittney Griner walks on the court during the first half of a women’s exhibition basketball game. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File); (right) United States’ DeMarcus Cousins (12) celebrates after making a basket during a quarterfinal round basketball game. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Brittney Griner told USA Today on Aug. 9 that she wanted a one-on-one opportunity at Sacramento Kings all-star center DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins, a rotation starter on the men’s team, has averaged 8.6 points per game during the Olympics while committing a team-leading 27 fouls. That didn’t stop Griner from issuing a challenge that Cousins later chalked up as “delusional.” While both Griner and Cousins have established themselves as premier players in their respected leagues, the difference is still glaring. So the question must be asked: would Griner hold up one-on-one against Cousins? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate this interesting question.
Riley: Griner is a skilled, dominant 6-foot, 8-inch power player that could give the average NBA player fits. Cousins is not the average NBA player, however. While Griner has dominated grown, adult women, Cousins has delivered the same type of domination in the men’s game. And it isn’t like Cousins is a limited player. He has range from deep, can handle the ball, rebound and score in a variety of ways inside the paint. Simply put: he’s a beast. Griner might be a dominant figure in her arena, but there’s no way she would hang with Cousins.
Green: My confidence depends on which version of Cousins we would get. If we get the lackadaisical, technical-foul generating Cousins, then things could get interesting. I love Cousins’ talent, and I love his power and ability to dominate, but he can be easily distracted and Griner has already laid the bait with her trash talk. Of course Cousins would win a game of one-on-one against Griner. She’s simply too small to be able to stop the 6-foot, 11-inch, 270-pound Cousins, who I consider the best big man in the NBA. But if he failed to take her seriously, she wouldn’t make it an easy victory—and that would be a very impressive feat for her in itself.
Riley: Focused or unfocused, it wouldn’t matter what version of Cousins we would get. It would be different if Griner had some type of counter perimeter game to lure Cousins out to the basket, but it’s actually Cousins who holds that advantage. In a game of one-on-one, the 6-foot, 11-inch big man would have advantages in height, strength, agility and overall game. When the media asked players from the men;s USA team what they thought about the potential matchup, several of them scoffed. We should be doing the same thing.
Green: The scoffing and overlooking is the exact reason why we shouldn’t just assume that Cousins would walk all over Griner. Growing up watching sports has taught me that you don’t overlook any opponent. We just saw that last season, when the Cleveland Cavaliers were trailing the defending champion Golden State Warriors 3-1 in the NBA Finals. Or you could back up a round when the Warriors were down 3-1 to the Oklahoma City Thunder. And how could we forget the 2007 New England Patriots team that lost to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl and finished the year 18-1 after running through the season undefeated. The task might seem impossible, but in sports anything is possible. Griner is an extremely skilled forward who has thrived in the professional ranks, just as she dominated the collegiate scene. If there was any women’s player who would have a chance against Cousins, it would be Griner. I’m not saying she will win, because I don’t believe she would. But she’d make it interesting. I actually think there are a few WNBA who could make things interesting against NBA regulars. Maya Moore, for instance, is one of the most skilled ballers ever, male or female. She has that outside game and inside game that you alluded to, Riley. Moore’s only six feet tall so a matchup against Cousins isn’t fair. But I could imagine her taking on a smaller player like 6-foot, 1-inch guard Kyle Lowry, a backup point guard for this year’s men’s Olympic team. That’s a matchup I think Moore could actually win.