<
>

Brittney Griner describes her attack

On Monday, WNBA star Brittney Griner was the victim of a knife attack in China. In a phone call Thursday night, Griner talked about her harrowing version of the attack, which wounded her elbow but did not require a trip to the hospital. Here is how she described the incident, in her own words:

I have been in China for a few weeks, playing for a team called the Beijing Great Wall in the Women's Chinese Basketball Association.

This is my second season playing in the WCBA.

On Monday, I was on the road with my team, a couple of hours north of Beijing in the city of Shenyang, where we were scheduled to play the Liaoning Leopards the following day. We had just finished practice at the local arena, and I was walking out of the gym with two of my teammates. The three of us were heading toward the team bus when we noticed a man walking down the middle of the street, yelling. (We happened to be the first out of the arena, ahead of the rest of the team.)

At first, I figured the guy was just a fan, gone out of control. I wasn't worried right away. But then my teammates and I noticed, almost at the same moment, that the man was waving something in his hand -- a knife. We must have drawn his attention somehow, because he immediately changed direction and started running through the gate toward us.

We had nowhere to go but toward the bus, so we ran for the door. The bus driver let us on, but the man with the knife somehow forced his way through the doors, too.

Now the situation was even more dangerous than if we had stayed outside -- we were trapped. The attacker jabbed at me first because I was closest. He missed. But on the second jab, he caught my elbow. Luckily, I was wearing a jacket (my favorite Nike hoodie), so the fabric absorbed most of the damage. Also, the man was using a knife with a dull tip; it was more of a carving knife. The blade itself was sharp, but the point was more rounded.

Right then, my teammate grabbed me from behind and pulled me further onto the bus. But my second teammate was still in the front, and I watched as he jabbed at her four or five times. I thought she was getting stabbed. And I couldn't wrap my mind around what was happening. I felt like I was watching a foreign movie, because I couldn't understand anything anyone was saying. The whole thing felt surreal.

We were a few seats away, and everything felt slow-motion. But I couldn't just sit there and watch this happen. I held my backpack in front of me, for protection in case he started jabbing at me again, and I stood with the goal of distracting the attacker from what he was doing. But my other teammate held my arm.

The man then stopped focusing on my other teammate and stood in the aisle, still yelling. He was wearing a jacket, pants and shoes -- an ordinary outfit, really -- but he was dripping sweat. He had one hand on his hip, the other waving the knife in the air.

I asked my teammates later to translate what he was saying.

They told me he was yelling, "I'm going to kill you!" He also said that we had hit his wife, that we had hurt his wife, and that he was going to kill us for that. The teammate next to me began yelling back at him; she told him to leave us alone.

"Get on your knees!" he demanded.

Neither of my teammates followed the order. And I'm just glad I didn't know, in that moment, what was being said.

I remember looking to the front of the bus because it seemed too much time had passed -- four or five minutes. Where was everybody? The bus driver was still in his seat, and a man who seemed to be a security guard was standing on the stairs. Both appeared to be frozen, maybe unsure how to help.

Then the man with the knife left. I don't know why. He turned and hustled off the bus, and we watched through the windows as he jumped on the hood of a white car that was driving past. He began wildly stabbing at the hood, then slid off the car, chasing the vehicle around the corner.

The police showed up right around that time. We were still in the back of the bus, watching everything through the windows. We watched as the man with the knife came back, thick blood now dripping down him. He was much bloodier than when he had left the bus -- his clothes and shoes covered in red.

The police immediately put him in the back of a van. I was told he was mentally ill and extremely intoxicated, and that the authorities took him to a mental health institution.

I was shaken up, but my teammate in the front of the bus got the worst of it. She wasn't stabbed, but the man was strong, and she was sore from the impact of his blows.

We drove back to the team hotel. I received a call from both the American consulate and embassy, which had also reached out to my folks back home in Houston. The next day, the Chinese police came back; we helped them fill out the police report.

Also that next day, we decided to play the game. (We won.) There was added security for the event, with three or four police officers at every entrance, especially on the walk from the arena to the team bus.

The thing I keep reminding myself is that the incident seemed to be random -- we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Everything is slowly getting back to normal.