After more than 300 days in a Russian prison, Brittney Griner’s not just back in America; she’s back playing basketball.
Griner made her in-season on-court debut for the Phoenix Mercury’s second game against the Chicago Sky at the Footprint Center.
Griner’s Mercury would lose the game 75-69, but it was more than just a game for Griner; it marked an emotional return to the court.
“There might have been a little dust in my eye, a little dusty,” Griner told reporters after the game. “It was emotional in the back, seeing some of the clips and then coming out. … It was really good. Part of the process of healing is kind of just letting it out. So yeah, I got choked up a little bit but try to hide it, but I see you caught it.”
Despite the loss, Griner put on a show and proved she’s still hungry to play and didn’t lose a step despite being away from the game for almost a year. She scored 27 points, hitting 9 of 13 shots, along with 10 rebounds.
For her homecoming, there were 10,000 fans there to cheer her on. While they may seem like a lot, it’s barely half of the arena’s 19,000 capacity, and Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard let fans know that for such a monumental game, the arena should have been sold out.
“I mean, it was great. But like, honestly, c’mon now, LA. We didn’t sell out the arena for BG? Like, I expected more, you know, to be honest. Right, it was great; it was loud. But how was it not a sellout? How was it not a sellout,” Vanessa Nygaard said after the game.
One rather important spectator that was in the stands was US Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens, who helped negotiate GGriner’sfreedom after being wrongfully detained.
“When BG came out, I think it was an emotional moment for both of us,” Carstens said. “I can tell you from where I sit and where the team sits in Washington DC, we knew that this day was going to come. We knew it was going to be hard. It was going to take some time, but what we saw today is exactly how I pictured it.”
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