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Author’s life intertwines with Brittney Griner

Naomi Jackson: ‘I was predisposed to love Griner in all her beauty and flaws.’

Naomi Jackson tells a moving story of finding inspiration in life’s complex situations, specifically in the life of Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner. In Griner, Jackson can see her own life’s journey. Jackson also owns a story of coming out.

“As a survivor of — and occasionally, a bad actor in — several spectacular romantic breakups in my 20s and early 30s, I am glad that my faux pas weren’t broadcast for the world to examine and, eventually, judge me,” Jackson wrote in her latest essay.

Griner hit the scene as the shot-blocking, high-scoring center at Baylor University. She drew national attention as she soared to become only the second NCAA basketball player to score 2,000 points and block 500 shots.

The Phoenix Mercury drafted Griner with the first overall pick in the 2013 WNBA draft. In a group interview with SI.com on April 17, 2013, that included the Chicago Sky’s Elena Delle Donne and the Dallas Wings’ Skylar Diggins, the players were asked why, in women’s sports as opposed to men’s, athletes coming out is accepted.

“I really couldn’t give an answer on why that’s so different,” Griner told SI.com. “Being one that’s out, it’s just being who you are. Again, like I said, just be who you are.”

She later told espnW: “I’ve always been really open about my sexuality and who I am. I never thought a big coming out was necessary.”

As she transitioned into the WNBA, her relationship and marriage to fellow WNBA player Glory Johnson became public domain. Stories of domestic abuse soon plagued the two. They got married on May 9, 2015. Griner and Johnson announced Johnson’s pregnancy on June 4, 2015. Griner filed for an annulment the following day.

After a seven-game suspension and weeks of counseling, Griner held her head high while onlooker and writer Jackson admired her from afar.

“She has come through the fire of bullying, a vexed relationship with her father, what she describes as an anti-homosexuality stance of Baylor University that forced her into a closet she didn’t want to be in, and, most recently, the public debacle of her domestic violence incident with, marriage to and impending divorce from her estranged wife, Glory Johnson,” Jackson wrote.

Read more on espnW.

Kelley Evans is a general editor at The Undefeated. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.