Brittney Griner officially secures her 2023 WNBA return

Brittney Griner is officially back in the WNBA.

Griner, 32, re-signed with the Phoenix Mercury, the team announced Tuesday. The seven-time All-Star will be playing in her 10th season in the WNBA, all of which have been in Phoenix, after she missed last year because of a 10-month detainment in Russia.

‘It’s a great day for all of us to announce that Brittney Griner has officially signed to play for the Mercury in 2023,’ Mercury general manager Jim Pitman said Tuesday in a statement. ‘We missed BG every day that she was gone and, while basketball was not our primary concern, her presence on the floor, in our locker room, around our organization, and within our community was greatly missed. We will continue to use the resources of our organization to support her, on and off the floor, and we are thrilled for her that she gets to return to basketball, which she loves so dearly. This is a special signing and today is a special day for all of us.’

Griner will make her return to the court May 19 when the Mercury kick off their season against the Sparks in Los Angeles. Phoenix fans will get their first chance to see Griner in person at the home opener on May 21 vs. the Chicago Sky.

Here’s everything you need to know about Griner re-signing with the Mercury.

What has Brittney Griner said about her return to the court?

Griner, who has been selective in making public comments since she returned to the U.S. posted to her verified Instagram account Tuesday, confirming her return to Phoenix. ‘So Good to be back with the Family @phoenixmercury,’ Griner wrote in the post. Griner had previously posted to her account December 16, indicating that she would be returning to play for Phoenix. Griner had been a free agent.

Griner most recently played in 2021, when she helped lead the Mercury to an appearance in the WNBA Finals. Griner averaged 20.5 points per game in 2021, ranking second-best in the league, as well as leading the league with 1.9 blocks per game and setting a Phoenix franchise record with 9.5 rebounds per game.

What else did team executives say about Brittney Griner re-signing with the Phoenix Mercury?

‘I do not think any of us will forget where we were on Dec. 8 when we heard BG was coming home or on Dec. 15 when she announced she intended not only to play basketball in 2023 but that it would be for the Mercury,’ Mercury president of business operations Vince Kozar said Tuesday in a statement. ‘And I know none of us will ever forget what it will feel like to welcome her back onto her home floor on May 21. To know BG is to love and appreciate BG, and we can’t wait to show her that in person with thousands and thousands of her biggest supporters exactly three months from today at our Welcome Home Opener.’

What happened to Brittney Griner?

Griner was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on Feb. 17, 2022 after authorities found vape cartridges with hash oil in her luggage. Griner pleaded guilty in early July, saying she’d mistakenly packed the drugs and that “there was no intent” to break the law. In August, she was sentenced to nine years in a penal colony. In late October, she lost her appeal.

The eight-time WNBA All-Star was transferred in November 2022 from her pre-trial detention facility to the penal colony. Then, on Dec. 8, President Joe Biden confirmed that Griner was released from the penal colony and transferred to U.S. custody after a prisoner exchange for arms dealer Viktor Bout. The following day, she landed at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas.

Who is Brittney Griner?

Born in Houston, Griner blossomed into a basketball star. The 6-foot-9 center began dominating at Minitz High School (McDonald’s All American, 2009) and played collegiately at Baylor from 2010-13. There, she was a member of the 2012 NCAA national championship team and was a two-time first-team All-American.

Representing the United States at the 2016 Rio and 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Griner won two gold medals with the women’s basketball team. Griner has been married twice. Her first marriage was to fellow WNBA player Glory Johnson, but that ended after one year in 2016. Two years later, Griner became engaged to her current wife, Cherelle Griner. The couple married in 2019. 

At the time of her arrest, Griner was a professional player for Russia’s UMMC Ekaterinburg.

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