A little bit of sole: Griner’s annual shoe drive delivers big numbers

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(Source: 3TV/CBS5) (Source: 3TV/CBS5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS5) (Source: 3TV/CBS5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS5) (Source: 3TV/CBS5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS5) (Source: 3TV/CBS5)

Like almost everybody else, Brittney Griner gets in her car every morning and drives to work. 

As the Mercury star drove through the streets of downtown Phoenix last year she noticed a consistent and unsettling sight.

“I was just driving,” said Griner, a member of the Mercury since 2013. “And I saw a lot of unfortunate homeless people with no shoes on and everyone knows Arizona is way too hot. You’re not even supposed to bring your dogs out.”

So Griner decided to be proactive and do something about it. And in the summer of 2016, the “Brittney Griner Heart & Sole Shoe Drive” was born.

“It was entirely BG,” said Vince Kozar, the Mercury’s Vice President of Operations. “She came to us and asked if it was okay if she drove around and gave people shoes out of her trunk.”

“We always have a lot of shoes as athletes and a lot us have shoe contracts,” said Griner. “So I figured I’d start it up with the team.”

Kozar and the Mercury had an idea though – do it bigger. After launching the shoe drive in 2016, the Suns soon joined in. Later, more WNBA teams got involved and then ultimately Mercury fans pitched in, a group the Mercury and Griner affectionately refer to as the “X-Factor.”

In 2016, Griner raised 500 pairs of shoes.  The 2017 total currently stand at 575 after Griner’s annual event opened to the fans last Saturday at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

“It definitely makes me feel good when the community rallies,” said Griner. “It’s an issue that I’m surprised more people haven’t touched on. There are always drives for clothing and stuff like that, and water, of course. All great things but people forget about a basic thing like shoes.”

The Mercury have long been a fan-oriented organization and for Griner, who spends a portion of her time playing professionally in Russia, it’s a chance to give back in the city she calls home.

“I love Phoenix,” said Griner. “This is home and I want to whatever I can to help out everybody in the community, fortunate or less fortunate, it doesn’t matter.”

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