After a whirlwind year, no one would have blamed Brittney Griner if she wanted to take some time off during the WNBA's offseason.
The 6-foot-8 center led the Baylor Bears to a 34-2 record during the 2012-13 season before being drafted No. 1 overall in the WNBA draft. A month-and-a-half after the draft, Griner was playing in her first WNBA game with the Phoenix Mercury. She helped lead the Mercury to the Western Conference Finals, with the team bowing out of the playoffs in late September.
One month after that, Griner arrived in China to begin a four-month stint in the Women's Chinese Basketball Association (WCBA). It was a grind, of course, but one that was a financial no-brainer.
While the Mercury could only pay Griner $49,440 in 2013, the WCBA's Zhejiang Golden Bulls signed her for approximately $600,000, according to ESPN The Magazine. Even with a $1 million endorsement contract from Nike, that type of money is hard to turn down. That's roughly six times more than the maximum salary in the WNBA.
Griner is far from the first star to spend her WNBA offseason in China, but now it is more clear of just how much the WCBA can offer. When Maya Moore, the top pick of the 2011 WNBA draft, signed with the WCBA's Shangxu Xing Rui Flame, she said she would be getting "significantly more than double" her $47,000 rookie contract.
By comparison, consider Anthony Bennett, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2013 NBA draft, whose salary this season with the Cavaliers is $5.32 million. If he could have signed with a foreign team at the same rate, his salary would be $63.84 million.
While the experience was certainly a good one for Griner's bank account, she struggled to fit in on her team and adjust to the enormous hype. Because of Griner's reputation, and her salary, she was burdened with ridiculous expectations.
"Any loss is always about what I did wrong," Griner told ESPN The Magazine. "I could score 100 points, but if we lost the game, it's, 'Well, you should have scored 200.'"
She never quite reached the century mark, but Griner did have a solid first season in China. She averaged 24.1 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.7 blocks and led the Golden Bulls to the semifinals of the WCBA playoffs.
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