Brittney Griner performed her first WNBA video games after spending 10 months detained in Russia. Right here's what it was like throughout her emotional return.

Vice President Kamala Harris gave Griner and her teammates a pep-talk forward of the sport.

Kamala Harris speaks to the Phoenix Mercury ahead of their 2023 season opener.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to the Phoenix Mercury forward of their 2023 season opener.

Mario Tama/Getty Photographs


Vice President Kamala Harris, who was pivotal within the combat to safe the prisoner trade with Russia that introduced Griner again stateside, was in attendance for the Mercury famous person’s WNBA re-debut. She even stepped into Phoenix’s locker room to commend Griner and her staff for his or her resilience all through the hardships of the final 12 months.

“Thanks for all that you just did in supporting Brittney,” Harris stated. “As a result of I do know that was tough, and that was so troublesome for you.”

“A staff is a staff — that is household,” she added.

Different stars got here out for the special day.

Michael Cooper (left) and Billie Jean King attend Brittney Griner's first game back.

Michael Cooper (left) and Billie Jean King attend Brittney Griner’s first recreation again.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports activities


Different large names flocked to Los Angeles’ Crypto.com Enviornment — and, two days later, to Phoenix’s Footprint Heart — to observe BG play. Tennis legend and distinguished activist Billie Jean King was noticed sitting alongside Los Angeles Lakers legend Michael Cooper.

Present Lakers coach Darvin Ham was available in Hollywood, as was Los Angeles nice Pau Gasol together with NBA icon Magic Johnson and his wife, Cookie. And Daybreak Staley, the WNBA nice who coached Griner to gold on the Tokyo Olympics, was there to give the star center a warm embrace.

For the primary time in years, Griner stood for the nationwide anthem.

Brittney Griner stands for the national anthem.

Brittney Griner stands for the nationwide anthem.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports activities


In previous years, Griner has advocated towards taking part in the nationwide anthem forward of sporting occasions. She joined a number of WNBA friends by remaining within the locker room for pregame festivities in the course of the 2021 season.

However after spending 10 months detained in Russia, Griner has as a substitute opted to face for the anthem in the course of the 2023 season.

Days forward of Griner’s debut, her agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, penned an essay for Time journal through which she defined the reasoning behind Griner’s alternative.

“Having been put in a literal cage, too small for her body, stripped of her important American freedoms, and disadvantaged of even her most simple rights throughout a sham trial and unjust sentencing, Brittney, supported by many different gamers, will make a press release this WNBA season by standing tall for these uniquely American freedoms — crucial of which being absolutely the and inviolable and constitutionally protected freedom to face, sit, kneel, reward, protest, and in any other case make your voice heard,” Colas wrote.

Then she led her staff in scoring regardless of spending so lengthy away from the hardwood.

Brittney Griner.

Brittney Griner handles the ball towards the Los Angeles Sparks.

AP Photograph/Ashley Landis


Hannah Wengertsman, the Mercury head athletic coach and bodily therapist, was instrumental in serving to Griner get again into form to compete this season. She informed Insider that it might be “vital to handle expectations” as Griner returns to the courtroom.

Griner left the WNBA in 2021 as an MVP candidate who averaged a whopping 20.5 factors, 9.5 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per recreation, rating top-10 within the league in all three classes. It might be unfair, Wengertsman argued, for folk to count on “the identical BG you noticed when she final performed” mere months after experiencing the trauma of Russia detainment.

However Griner met the second in breathtaking style, main the Mercury with 18 factors whereas including six rebounds and 4 blocks. 

Two days later, Griner was again in motion — this time on her dwelling flooring in Phoenix.

Brittney Griner.

Brittney Griner with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.

AP Photograph/Matt York


The Mercury hosted the Chicago Sky on Sunday for what was dubbed the “Welcome House Opener.” It was Griner’s first alternative to play in entrance of Phoenix’s loyal fanbase, often called “The X-Issue,” in almost two years, and she or he felt the love from her dwelling crowd instantly.

“It means every part,” Griner stated in her post-game press convention. “Anyone who involves this recreation is aware of the X-Issue and that you just’re gonna see, hear, really feel the depth. It is each single evening, from the beginning of the sport to the top.”

“With the ability to play in entrance of them means every part to me,” she added. “I do not take it with no consideration, that is for positive.”

She gained the tip-off and scored on the primary possession of the sport.

Brittney Griner celebrates a play during her homecoming game in Phoenix.

Brittney Griner celebrates a play throughout her homecoming recreation in Phoenix.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports activities


Griner loved a storybook begin to her homecoming recreation. She gained the tip over the Sky’s Elizabeth Williams, then positioned herself within the paint to gather a go from longtime teammate Diana Taurasi.

The 2-time Olympic gold medalist took a couple of dribbles, showcased some fancy footwork underneath the basket, then dropped in a close-range shot by contact. Her defender was whistled for the foul, and Griner transformed the foul shot for a fast three factors.

At halftime, Grammy winner Wyclef Jean sang a shifting rendition of “One Love.”

Wyclef Jean performs at halftime of the Phoenix Mercury's 2023 home debut.

Wyclef Jean performs at halftime of the Phoenix Mercury’s 2023 dwelling debut.

Christian Petersen/Getty Photographs


Griner racked up 9 factors, 4 rebounds, and two blocks by the primary half of play. However even as soon as she was again within the locker room, followers had been handled to a present on the courtroom.

Three-time Grammy winner Wyclef Jean carried out Bob Marley’s smash hit, “One Love,” at heart courtroom whereas surrounded by a whole bunch of followers. He later carried out a few of his largest hits in a postgame live performance on the enviornment.

Griner completed her dwelling re-debut as the sport’s chief in factors, rebounds, and blocks.

Brittney Griner reacts to draining a three-point shot.

Brittney Griner reacts to draining a three-point shot.

Christian Petersen/Getty Photographs


There is not any approach round it: Griner appeared pretty much as good as ever in her return to the Footprint Heart. She completed the sport with a whopping 27 factors — which included an uncharacteristic three factors from past the arc — in addition to 10 rebounds and 4 blocks. She was, far and away, one of the best participant on the ground Sunday afternoon.

And although her Mercury did not come away with the win, Griner undoubtedly took some delight in her stellar play in simply her second recreation again.

“My mindset was, if I am the primary choice, I’ve acquired to go rating it,” Griner stated after the sport. “If I am not, then I must get my participant open.”

“But it surely all the time feels good when the primary bucket goes down,” she added.

Reminders to assist Individuals who stay wrongfully detained overseas had been in all places all through Griner’s first dwelling recreation.

 

A lot of the staff’s programming surrounding the sport targeted on Griner’s continued work advocating for Individuals wrongfully detained around the globe. Letter-writing stations had been planted across the Footprint Heart in order that followers may ship messages of assist to Individuals who stay imprisoned abroad or foyer members of presidency to behave on their behalf.

The hardwood was emblazoned with the brand of the Carry Our Households House marketing campaign — a coalition of households working to deliver their family members dwelling from wrongful detainment — after the Mercury partnered with the group forward of the season.

Marketing campaign chair Neda Sharghi, who has a brother wrongfully detained in Iran, was available to assist Griner on Sunday. So was Roger Carstens, the particular presidential envoy for hostage affairs who was vital to the efforts that introduced Griner stateside.

“What we noticed at present was precisely how I pictured it,” Carstens stated throughout Griner’s postgame press convention. “BG dwelling. Cherelle cheering her on. BG’s household within the crowd and BG again on the courtroom doing what she does finest, and that is taking part in basketball.”


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