Brittney Griner made her long-awaited return to the basketball court Friday night after her 10-month detainment in Russia last year, but it didn’t have the ending her fans were hoping for.
The Phoenix Mercury center still scored 10 points and pulled down 3 rebounds as the Mercury fell to the LA Sparks by a score of 90 to 71 in the WNBA preseason game.
Griner only played for 17 minutes, but she made the most of it, and her teammates were psyched to see her back on the court, hugging and high-fiving while also giving each other chest bumps.
The crowd was ecstatic to see Brittney … they erupted in applause when her name was first announced inside the Footprint Center in Phoenix.
After the game, Griner told reporters that she was “grateful” to have the opportunity to play again and would not take a single day for granted.
She also said she had a different experience hearing the national anthem before the game got underway.
“Hearing the national anthem, it definitely hit different,” she said, adding, “It’s like when you go for the Olympics.”
Griner was critical of her on-court performance, explaining, “Not where I want it to be, but on the right track. We’re making the right moves.”
But, given what’s Griner’s been through, it must have felt in some way like a victory.
Griner was detained in Russia for nearly 300 days after getting caught with hash oil at Moscow Airport in February 2022. She was charged with smuggling drugs into the country, but was later released in a prisoner swap in December.