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Shane Battier: 'In our lifetime, there will be a woman NBA player'

By Royce Young | NBA writer

Lopez has been a superhero for Brooklyn this year.     (Illustration by Jarod Valentin)
Battier says it would take a 'female LeBron' to make it in the NBA. (Getty Images)

After Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he'd consider drafting college basketball legend Brittney Griner of Baylor, it set off ripple effects everywhere. From those who wanted to dismiss it, to those who wanted to entertain the idea, to those who wanted to use it as a jumping-off point for a broader topic, the discussion essentially became this: Could a female ever realistically play in the NBA?

Shane Battier says yes.

"There's no doubt that in our lifetime, there will be a woman NBA player," Battier told ESPN.com. "I don't know if it's Griner or if it's someone who is 5 years old right now ... But we'll see it. It'll happen in our lifetime. Just the law of averages."

What would it take, though? Is Griner capable? She's 6-foot-8, and while she obviously doesn't have the strength of most 6-8 NBA players, she certainly has the size.

"I don't think it would be out of the realm of possibility that [one day] we'll see a female LeBron," Battier said. "You could be the most skilled player in the world that the women's game has ever seen, but that won't cut it in the NBA. She'd have to be a physical specimen."

It's a really touchy topic because while you want to talk openly and honestly about the limitations and challenges a female player would face, you also don't want to blindly dismiss the possibility based on preconceived ideas and stereotypes.

Said Rick Carlisle, via the ESPN.com piece: "I haven't watched a single [Baylor] game all year. I know she's a hell of a player. Beyond that, I don't want to get into the polarizing discussion about it ... I think it's important to have an owner who is open-minded and I think it's important that the organization is open-minded. But ultimately, whether or not she can play is something I don't want to get into."

The biggest obstacle, seemingly, for a female player to make it in the NBA would be the physicality. The strength, speed and athleticism -- all things that appear to separate the men's and women's game.

"Strength is the biggest issue that player would have, especially with those post players," Battier said. "Post play is just so physical.

"Look, I'm 6-foot-8, 220 pounds and I guard [Indiana Pacers power forward] David West and [Chicago Bulls power forward] Carlos Boozer. I lift weights twice a week and I think I'm strong as a 34-year-old man. And I struggle with those guys."

Battier was also asked if he thought it would just be a publicity stunt and turn into a sideshow if it happened.

"Listen, this whole thing is a sideshow," Battier said. "What's one more trailer on this sideshow?"

Very true. Very, very true.

I'll add this to the discussion, though: I've had the unique experience of playing against female basketball players at a very high level. In college, I served as a scout team player for the University of Oklahoma women's team, a group that won more than 30 games that season and the Big 12 with All-American Courtney Paris, a Griner-ish type of player. Big, strong, imposing and very good around the basket.

And from my experience, I came away surprised at how physical, tough and athletic the players were. They never backed down from us, they played dirty, they played rough. They could stay in front of us, they could rebound with us, they could beat us off the dribble. They were good. Legitmately good.

But, our group of guys was basically a rag-tag bunch of pickup wannabe All-Stars and while we could all play a little, we definitely didn't have any kind of size, speed or athleticism resembling anything close to an NBA-level player. Our scrimmages were always extremely competitive with them winning some, us winning some. But again, that was against a bunch of 6-foot-nothing nobodies.

So, while I certainly won't write off the possibility, because why not, you know, I do differ with Battier regarding his overall point that we'll see it. We very well might, but unlike Battier, I don't say that with much confidence.

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