The last time Brittney Griner stepped onto a basketball court in the United States in a professional capacity was October 17, 2021. She put 28 points and seven rebounds in an 80-74 loss that sealed the WNBA Championship for the Chicago Sky. Exactly four months, she was arrested at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow on drug smuggling charges. In what many decried as a political imprisonment, she was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony.
On December 8, Griner returned to the United States after being exchanged in a prisoner swap for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout. While there were concerns about Griner's future, the eight-time all-star made it clear that she intended to return to the court with the Phoenix Mercury. She officially re-signed with the team in February and is the most experienced center on the roster. She will be backed up by Megan Gustafson and Kylee Shook.
Griner Scores 10 In US Court Return
573 days after last stepping foot on a US basketball court, Griner donned her Mercury prepared to face her first American audience in nearly two years. As she stepped out in view, the 17,000 fans packed into Phoenix's Footprint Center rose to their feet to give the center a standing ovation. Griner high-fived her teammates before pointing to the sky as she prepared to take on the rebuilding Los Angeles Sparks. The Sparks have the second-lowest odds to win the WNBA Championship in 2023.
The result, a 90-71 win for the Sparks, wasn't important to the fans in the crowd. They were largely there to see Griner. Playing 17 minutes in the preseason game, Griner put up 10 points. She also pulled down three rebounds as Vanessa Nygaard rotated her players frequently. But Griner showed without a doubt that she was ready for the 2023 season. Without Griner, the Mercury went 15-21 in 2022 but still made the playoffs as the eighth seed. The Mercury will face the Sparks again on May 19 for their regular season opener in Los Angeles. Are you excited for the 2023 WNBA season? How do you think Brittney Griner will do this season? Let us know in the comments.