Brittney Griner, the Phoenix Mercury centre, played her first WNBA preseason game against Los Angeles Sparks on May 12 after getting released from Russia. She was initially detained at the Moscow Airport for drug-related charges in February 2022. After ten months of detention, the 32-year-old was released by the Russian government in exchange for a high-profile prisoner, Viktor Bout, an arms dealer, who was in custody of the USA government.
The two-time Olympic gold medallist, Brittney Griner strolled out to a rousing reception at the Footprint Centre in Phoenix, Arizona, just an hour and half before the preseason game between Mercury and Sparks began. She was seen high-fiving and hugging her teammates, on her way to taking part in first basketball game since 2021.
Watch the videos here:
The six-time WNBA all-star delivered an inspiring performance on her comeback and collected ten points along with three rebounds, even though her team Phoenix Mercury lost to Los Angeles Sparks by 90-71.
Afterwards, Brittney Griner talked about her emotional return to the sport with the reporters and said, “I didn't think I would be sitting here. I didn't think I would be playing basketball this quickly.”
“I didn't know how it was going to go, getting back into it. I’m grateful to be here, that's for sure. It feels good, you definitely feel appreciated. But I can’t wait for the day where it’s kind of like just basketball,” Griner further remarked.
The six-feet-nine centre was the first overall pick from Phoenix Mercury in the 2013 WNBA draft. Since then, in her nine-year career with the franchise, Brittney Griner has averaged 17.7 points and 7.6 rebounds. In 2014, she was the chief architect for Phoenix Mercury as they won their third WNBA championship.