Mercury’s Brittney Griner Gets Ovation From Sparks Fans in WNBA Return – NBC Chicago

Welcome back to the WNBA, Brittney Griner.

Prior to Friday night’s 2023 season opener between the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury at Arena, the Sparks made a nice gesture by highlighting the Mercury center’s return.

The public address announcer welcomed Griner back and she received a standing ovation from the away crowd in Los Angeles.

Once the game started, it didn’t take long for Griner to make her presence felt. Less than a minute into the contest, she knocked down a jumper from the top of the key.

That was just the start of a big night for Griner, who finished with a game-high 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting with six rebounds and four blocks. The Mercury, however, fell to the Sparks 94-71.

“How good did she just look? Unbelievable,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert told reporters at halftime, via The Associated Press.

Griner was playing in her first game since 2021. She missed the entire 2022 season after being detained at a Russian airport in February 2022. Following a nearly 10-month detainment on drug-related charges, she returned to the United States in December as part of a prisoner swap.

“Today is a day of joy,” Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard said pregame. “An amazing, amazing thing has happened.”

“We brought back this Black, gay woman from a Russian jail and America did that because they valued her and she’s a female athlete and they valued her,” she added.

“Just to be part of a group that values people at that level, it makes me very proud to be an American. Maybe there’s other people that that doesn’t make them proud, but for me, I see BG and I see hope and I see the future and I have young children and it makes me really hopeful about our country,”

Vice President Kamala Harris delivered a pregame speech to the Mercury ahead of Griner’s return.

Harris was one of several notable names in attendance for the game, along with Magic Johnson, Dawn Staley and Billie Jean King, among others.

Griner, 32, was the first overall pick of the Mercury in 2013. She’s made seven All-Star Games and helped Phoenix win the WNBA Finals in 2014.

Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner addressed the media on Thursday.

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