Brittney Griner is taking her talents to China.
In a move that all but confirmed the inevitable, the Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls announced on their website today that Griner is headed to the Chinese eastern coastal province to play basketball for the 2013-14 season.
Of course, you’ll recognize Griner was recently drafted by the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury. The Chinese league’s (WCBA) season runs from October to February, meaning Griner will play here this summer and then ship over to China for the next five months.
Griner won’t be the first to head to the deep-pocketed WCBA, which has thrown cash at stars like Liz Cambage, Tamika Catchings and Swin Cash in the past. Griner will probably supplant Maya Moore as the league’s LBJOR (LeBron James Of Record), not only in stature but in earning power.
Moore earned nearly $50K from the Minnesota Lynx in her rookie WNBA season and said she’s earned more than double that in China. With Griner’s cache in tow, I’d expect her to earn at least that much if not more (nebulous as that money figure may be).
A move abroad to a foreign league is viewed as a necessary supplementary tool for American women’s basketball players good enough to do it. Part of that has to do with the meager salaries on offer for WNBA players. Players can earn no less than $36,570 in the WNBA and no more than $105,000. If you’re a role player on the bottom end of that spectrum, playing abroad is almost a must.
There are a number of well-attended, financially stable leagues elsewhere, and China has emerged as perhaps the one with the biggest coffers. On the men’s side, J.R. Smith signed a lucrative deal with the Golden Bulls during the 2011 NBA lockout.
Griner will replace Cambage, an uber-talented center who got the Golden Bulls to the final last season before Moore’s Shanxi Xingrui Flame won the title. Of note: Cambage is 6-foot-8 and can dunk. The Golden Bulls must really like Griner.
The WCBA now not only has one of the most dominant young female athletes in the country, but it also has one of its best bourgeoning rivalries. A Moore vs. Griner final could be a high theater. Both are still young, meaning that could develop into a beast of its own over time.
Here’s the official announcement from the Golden Bulls’ site.
“In order to move forward in strengthening our team and to obtain even greater results for next season, the club started the off-season process to find a foreign player extremely early. After a period of communication and negotiation, we can officially announce as of today that we have signed American women’s superstar, Brittney Griner.”