Five months after her release, basketball player Brittney Griner, detained for ten months in Russia, again walked the floor on Friday May 19 with the Phoenix Mercury. She was greeted with a standing ovation at the WNBA season opener in Los Angeles. “You have to get back to work and know how to put everything aside”said Brittney Griner, about the emotions that crossed her during this solemn moment at the microphone of ESPN, which broadcast this match live.
The Crypto.com Arena, certainly sparse but where Kamala Harris was present, did not fail to reserve a warm welcome to Brittney Griner, on the occasion of this meeting marking a return to normal for the star, double Olympic champion with Team USA in 2016 and 2020. “Thank you for everything you did to support Brittney, because I know it was rough. It was very difficult for you, because a team is a team – it’s family”said the vice-president to the Mercury players, whom she visited in the locker room.
The last time Brittney Griner walked on a North American league floor was on October 17, 2021, in the fourth game of the final lost against Chicago Sky. 579 days have passed. As for his previous match in competition, it dated back 474 days in the Russian championship, with Yekaterinburg.
The pivot was arrested in February 2022 at a Moscow airport with a vaporizer and liquid containing cannabis, a product banned in Russia. She was about to draw for the Yekaterinburg team during the American offseason. In August, she was sentenced to nine years in prison and then, after her appeal was rejected, was transferred in November to a penal colony in central Russia.
A “day of joy”
Brittney Griner was finally exchanged in December for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, a prisoner in the United States. Over the past five months, she has been training and preparing to become the dominant insider she once was. And for this recovery match finally largely lost (94-71) by her team against the Los Angeles Sparks, she more than convinced, finishing as top scorer (18 points at 7/9 on shots, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks).
With each of her actions, fans of both teams loudly encouraged the 32-year-old player, who is also a figure in the LGBT + community. “It’s a day of joy”Phoenix coach Vanessa Nygaard said in her pregame speech. “Throughout last season, I started every press conference by reminiscing how many days she had been gone. And until the day we found out she was about to come home, no one thought it was going to happen. »
“It was heavy every day, but it’s great to have this game today. It’s a miracle that she’s here, and everyone who attends this game today will witness a miracle: she came back from a Russian prison and is playing basketball in the WNBA again. It is thanks to the strength and the will of so many people that this has happened”she added.