NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Before they were college basketball stars and the future of the WNBA, Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins and Elena Delle Donne had something else in common: They were all bullied when they were kids.
The top three picks in the WNBA draft talked to The Associated Press about a variety of topics Wednesday, including how standing out in a crowd wasn’t always easy.
“It was hard. Just being picked on for being different. Just being bigger, my sexuality, everything,” said the 6-foot-8 Griner, who acknowledged she is a lesbian. “I overcame it and got over it. Definitely something that I am very passionate about. I want to work with kids and bring recognition to the problem, especially with the LGBT community.”
Griner also discussed her sexuality with Sports Illustrated, saying “it really wasn’t too difficult” to come out.
“I wouldn’t say I was hiding or anything like that,” she told SI. “I’ve always been open about who I am and my sexuality. So, it wasn’t hard at all. If I can show that I’m out and I’m fine and everything’s OK, then hopefully the younger generation will definitely feel the same way.”
Delle Donne, who is 6-5, said she was also picked on when she was younger. Not just for her size, but also because of her older sister Lizzie, who is deaf, blind and has cerebral palsy.
“Being way taller than the other girls, they’d make fun of me,” Delle Donne told the AP. “Issues with my sister that you wouldn’t believe. People saying she looked like a monster. It was so hurtful.”
Diggins said girls are cruel and would make fun of her for “whatever it was that day.”
The Notre Dame star, who stands at a more pedestrian 5-foot-9, said she used to want to go back at those people who would verbally attack her, but really learned a lot from the way Griner has dealt with the negativity surrounding her.
“I don’t think anyone has handled it better than Brittney,” Diggins said. “It’s great to see how she handles herself in this situation. People are cruel. She handles every situation with such class and it’s inspiring and she’s taught me some things about when people say bad things. She’s a poster child for how to handle criticism.”
Delle Donne remembers first meeting Griner at an All-America ceremony.
“We were all sitting there and no one was talking to each other and then Brittney comes bounding in and broke the ice with everyone just being herself.”
The trio have become friends over the course of the season, tweeting and texting to each other.
Griner joked they aren’t “getting together for movies or alligator tails in Waco,” but have developed a kinship. Rooting for each other over the course of the season and consoling when their college careers ended.
“I hadn’t felt that way any other year,” Diggins said. “I’d see them play and go, ‘Wow, she got fouled. That’s not right.'”
Griner admitted also cheering for the other two during the season.
“People act like we shouldn’t root each other on,” the two-time AP Player of the Year said. “Why not? Why do I have to hope they fail, I want them to make it all the way. When we meet on the court we put aside friendship and then when the game’s over, we can joke around again.”
Diggins has big plans for the trio and hopes they can play together in the 2016 Rio Olympics in a proposed 3-on-3 basketball event. Sure, the IOC Executive board first has to approve the event on Aug. 9, but to Diggins that’s just a formality.
“Think about how much attention it would draw, the three of us playing together in the first one,” Diggins said. “It would be such a great honor. We would win. We would definitely win.”
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)