Brittney Griner Makes Emotional Return To Phoenix Mercury In WNBA Opener
It has been five months since Phoenix Mercury player Brittney Griner was released after spending 300 days in Russian custody. Over the weekend, she made her first appearance on the court for the WNBA’s opening night.
Though the Mercury were defeated on their home court by the visiting Chicago Sky, Griner’s return to play was the story of the game. Introduced to thunderous applause from over 14,000 fans piled into the Footprint Center, the 32-year-old, six-time WNBA All-star scored 27 points on 9-13 shooting, adding to 10 rebounds, giving her a double-double, according to USA Today.
Griner said in a press conference after the game that her first time on the court since 2021 was moving.
Brittney Griner gets a standing ovation as she’s introduced at the Mercury’s home opener VS. The Sky.
It’s her first game at Footprint Center since October 2021. pic.twitter.com/6k2d9CQU0c
— Cydney Henderson (@CydHenderson) May 21, 2023
“It was emotional. Just hearing and seeing some of the clips. They set me up with that song,” teased Griner, who said she started to cry during the introduction. “Part of the process of healing is letting it out. I got choked up a little bit and I tried to hide it.” The 6-foot-9 center also had the support of Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard. “It’s a day of joy,” she said. “We brought back this woman — this Black, gay woman — from a Russian jail, and America did that because they valued her.”
The elation around her return is no doubt related to the fear many fans and players had that her detainment would sever her relationship with the sport; however, Griner has expressed that her only plan, for now, is to return to the level of play she had before her 10-month punishment. “By All-Star, I hope to be exactly where I want to be,” she said after Sunday’s game. “You know, not having to limit my minutes, being able to just play — I’m going to regret this, but — being able to play 40 minutes. Just getting back to what I was before.”
Happy to see Brittney Griner back where she belongs and doing what she loves.