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The 6’8″ basketball star that is Brittney Griner may not be a household name as of yet, but she’s certainly on her way. “If you didn’t already know it was me, would you know it was me?” Griner asks the ESPN editor as she contemplates being placed on the cover of a major sport’s magazine.

The former Baylor University student has scored major endorsement deals with Nike and was recently signed on to the WNBA, where she plays for the Phoenix Mercury. Now, Brittney’s poised for her latest mini-takeover via ESPN Magazine. As the latest cover story, we get to learn more about Brittney than what we can assume from her many negative commentators on the internet.

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I learned that Brittney’s pain reflects years of torment from people challenging how “normal” she is, but she still stands tall literally and figuratively to combat the poisonous comments. I also learned that even though Brittney had fully accepted herself as a lesbian woman, by the time she made it to college, she was back in the closet again because of Baylor’s strict rules against homosexuality. Challenge after challenge, Brittney proves her resilience is palpable.

Brittney’s in the midst of building her brand, on her own terms. She’s come out as an openly gay athlete as soon as she started as a professional. Griner is nothing less than a trailblazer, clutching inspiration like a basketball. She sees past all the critics who call her a man, or worse, an ape and overcame the negativity by being comfortable in her own skin. (No matter how uncomfortable the public is with her skin.)

Check out the standout pieces from her interview:

On Happiness Of Coming Out:

“I am 100-percent happy. When I was at Baylor, I wasn’t fully happy because I couldn’t be all the way out. It feels so good saying it: I am a strong, black lesbian woman. Every single time I say it, I feel so much better. I decided to just put myself out there. When I’m in a dress, it’s like, ‘What am I doing in this?’ I feel trapped, like I’m in shackles and handcuffs and a straitjacket. So I was just like, F— it, I’m going to wear what I want. I caught hell for it, but it felt so good being myself.”

On Her Haters Via Social Media:

She picks up her phone, scrolling through Twitter and Instagram, as she does routinely, to see what people are saying about her.

The hits come quickly: “You’re disgusting.” [Scroll.] “Ur a man.” [Scroll.] “What are you? #man? #ape?”

“Here’s one,” she says, rolling her eyes. “‘You have a penis.'” Satisfied that her troll chorus still cares, Griner puts away the phone. “Reading what people say makes me want to be me even more.”

On Being A Groundbreaking Athlete:

WNBA have progressive views on gender. “They share the ultimate goal of living in a world where gender equality exists in all its forms,” says league president Laurel Richie.

The WNBA has been building toward the emergence of a player who can embody this philosophy, and now here she is with her size 17 sneakers and 88-inch wingspan. “This feels like a magical moment,” Richie says. “I think years from now, we’ll look back on 2013 as the pivotal year for this league.”

What makes it [the deal] groundbreaking is the freedom. She will wear apparel branded as menswear, including the skateboarding line Nike SB, and she is allowed to pursue nontraditional marketing deals with outside companies.

‘She can change the way people think,’ says Lindsay Kagawa Colas, Griner’s agent at Wasserman Media Group. ‘And her success will mean society is working a little better for everyone.’

On Her Girlie Side:

A week before joining the Mercury for training camp, Griner spent eight hours getting the flower tattoo on her left shoulder extended into a sleeve, complete with a hummingbird. ‘It’s to show my girlie side,’ she says. ‘So many people exist between the two ends of the spectrum, but no one wants to admit it. If you’re in between, they say something is wrong with you. ‘We can fix you.’ Well, I don’t need fixing.’

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