Brittney Griner made history Monday when she dunked twice in her WNBA debut with the Phoenix Mercury, making her the first woman to ever do so twice in one game, according to The Associated Press.
But Elena Delle Donne had the better game and got the rout against the player picked ahead of her in the draft.
Della Donne outplayed No. 1 overall draft Griner and had the third-best rookie debut in WNBA history, scoring 22 points to lead the Chicago Sky to a 102-80 victory over the Phoenix Mercury on Monday.
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"Today was absolutely amazing," said Delle Donne, whose debut was behind only Candace Parker’s 34 points for Los Angeles in 2008 and the 25 Cynthia Cooper scored for Houston in 1997. "We came here to get a win and that's what we’re leaving with."
The fans inside US Airways Center and on national TV tuned in to see Griner dunk and the Mercury's above-the-rim-playing center didn’t disappoint, throwing down a one-hander early in the fourth quarter and a vicious two-handed in the closing minutes. That put her in select company, joining Parker (twice) and Lisa Leslie as the only WNBA players to dunk in a regular-season game.
The double dunks turned out to be little more than a highlight-reel sideshow to the Sky's dominating performance.
Led by Delle Donne’s 16 points, Chicago took advantage of Griner’s early foul trouble and raced out to a 24-point lead halftime lead.
Even when Phoenix tried to make a run and Griner got her dunks, the Sky didn’t fold, keeping the lead in double digits on the way to handing the Mercury their most lopsided home-opening loss.
Epiphanny Prince had 26 points and five assists, Courtney Vandersloot added 14 points and Delle Donne, No. 2 overall pick behind Griner, had eight rebounds for Chicago.
"I think it’s a really good starting point for our team," Sky coach Pokey Chatman said.
Griner finished with solid numbers in her debut: 17 points, eight rebounds, four blocked shots, and two history-making dunks.
The problem was that the 6-foot-8 center picked up her third foul with 2 1-2 minutes left in the first quarter and had with two points in nine first-half minutes.
Without Griner, the Mercury had trouble stopping Chicago inside and gave up too many offensive rebounds, allowing the Sky to build a huge lead that was never really threatened.
Diana Taurasi had 18 points and four assists, and Candice Dupree added 15 points for Phoenix.
"In the second half, she played well, but she can't do anything when she’s on the bench," Mercury coach Corey Gaines said of Griner. "It’s a learning experience."
Griner came into the WNBA with expectations unlike any other player in league history.
With a wingspan of 7-foot-4 and agility more like a much smaller player, Griner blocked more shots than anyone in NCAA history, man or woman, and changed the below-the-rim perception of women’s basketball with 18 dunks.
Griner turned a national spotlight toward the WNBA and the Mercury in particular, adding a big piece to a team already loaded with stars like Taurasi, Penny Taylor, and Dupree.
Griner's debut had downtown Phoenix buzzing with people and created an atmosphere inside US Airways Center like it was a playoff game.
The only thing left in doubt was whether Griner could get her dunk.
She brought the crowd to its feet with her first one, taking a pass from Charde Houston for a make-it-look-easy one-hander. Griner induced a roar with her next one, scooping up a loose ball and throwing down a two-hander, hanging on the rim for effect.
Exciting as it was, the second dunk only cut Chicago’s lead to 22.
"I wish it was in a win, but whenever I can dunk, the crowd got into it," Griner said.
Turned out, it was about all they had to cheer about.
The two teams won't play again until Sept. 11 in Chicago.
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