June 1, 2023

Britney Griner was launched from a Russian penal colony in a high-profile prisoner swap with the US late final 12 months.

Brittney Griner made an emotional return to ladies’s basketball, enjoying her first aggressive match in practically two years since her imprisonment in Russia.

Griner, who was launched by Russia in a prisoner swap final 12 months, made her first WNBA recreation look in 579 days Friday evening when the Phoenix Mercury confronted the Los Angeles Sparks on the season opener in California.

US Vice President Kamala Harris was among the many well-wishers on the Crypto.com enviornment in downtown Los Angeles when the WNBA famous person lastly returned to motion.

The 2-time Olympian instantly made an impression on her return, profitable the opening stage and scoring 4 factors because the Mercury took a 7-0 lead.

The group erupted when she hit a 17-foot jumper on her first try on the competitors.

“It was good,” Griner mentioned in an on-court interview late within the first quarter. “It was excellent. I felt like I used to be enjoying for the final time.”

In the long run, Griner scored 18 factors and 6 rebounds, however could not cease Phoenix from falling to a 94-71 loss.

The end result, nevertheless, was nearly a footnote to what Phoenix coach Vanessa Nygaard known as “a day of pleasure.”

“All final season, I opened each press convention with an announcement about what number of days she was gone,” Nygaard mentioned earlier than the sport.

And till the day once we acquired the information within the morning that she was going house, nobody thought that this may occur.

“We did our job, in all probability with much less pleasure than skilled athletes. It was exhausting every single day. Nevertheless it’s nice that right this moment there’s this recreation. In the present day is a day of pleasure.”

Celebrities on the courtroom Friday included tennis legend Billie Jean King, Los Angeles Lakers icon Ervin “Magic” Johnson and present Lakers head coach Darwin Ham.

Shortly earlier than that, Vice President Harris congratulated the Phoenix gamers that the Greener case had not been forgotten.

“Thanks for all the things you have accomplished to help Britney as a result of I do know it has been powerful,” Harris mentioned in a locker room deal with. “It was so exhausting for you as a result of a group is a group, it is a household.”

The pinnacle of the WNBA gamers union and Sparks ahead Nneka Ogwumike thanked Harris and the Biden administration for serving to to free Greener.

“In the present day is a recreation, however we’re additionally celebrating the return of one among our personal,” Ogwumike mentioned.

Griner, 32, a WNBA champion and LGBTQ innovator, was arrested on drug fees at a Moscow airport in February 2022 amid a surge in tensions over Ukraine.

On the time of her arrest, Griner was enjoying for knowledgeable group in Russia, as many WNBA gamers do through the low season.

She was charged with possession of e-cigarette cartridges containing a small quantity of hashish oil and was sentenced in August to 9 years in jail.

She pleaded responsible to the fees, however mentioned she didn’t intend to interrupt the regulation or use a banned substance in Russia.

Ultimately, Griner was launched as a part of a deal that noticed her exchanged in December for infamous Russian arms vendor Viktor Bout, referred to as the “Seller of Loss of life”.

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