Seven-time WNBA All-Star Britney Griner returned to game action on Friday for the first time since she was arrested in February 2022 at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after authorities discovered vape canisters laced with cannabis oil in her luggage.
Griner spent nearly 10 months in a Russian prison after he pleaded guilty to drug chargesand returned to the United States in December after a prisoner exchange.
On Friday night, Griner played his first competitive game since the WNBA Finals 2021scoring 10 points for the Phoenix Mercury in a preseason game against the Los Angeles Sparks.
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It was the Mercury’s final preseason game before the regular season opener on Friday.
Prior to the announcement, Griner and her teammates rose to their feet for the national anthem, and the No. 1 pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft received a standing ovation from the home crowd when she was introduced.
«listening to the National anthemIt definitely hit different,” Griner said. different.
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«Being here today…means a lot.»
In July 2020, as protests for social justice were taking place across the country, Griner said that he did not feel the anthem should be played during the season, adding that he did not mean «to disrespect our country.»
Griner re-signed with Phoenix in February, returning for her tenth WNBA season, all with the Mercury.
«We looked at each other and we had goosebumps,» Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard said. «We were here last year for all of that. I’m getting excited now. Just seeing her out there again, it’s an absolute miracle. It was amazing. She’s giving me the creeps again.»
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Griner added three rebounds in 17 minutes, but criticized her performance, saying she was rustier than she expected.
«Not where I want it to be, but on the right track,» Griner said. «We are making the right moves.»
Griner’s Russian detention ended in December after months of tense negotiations, with the Biden administration agreeing to exchange Griner for convicts. Russian arms dealer Victor Bout.
Associated Press contributed to this report.