- WNBA superstar Brittney Griner returned to the US after 10 months detained in Russia last week.
- In her first public comments since, Griner confirmed that she wants to play basketball again this season.
- Griner also thanked her supporters who “advocated, wrote, and posted for me.”
Brittney Griner wants to play.
The basketball superstar, who returned to the US last week after spending 10 months detained in Russia, has confirmed that she wants to return to the court for the upcoming WNBA season.
The 6-foot-9 Phoenix Mercury center made her first public comments since touching down in San Antonio, Texas, in the caption of an Instagram post she shared Friday morning.
“I also want to make one thing very clear: I intend to play basketball for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury this season,” Griner wrote to accompany photos of her deboarding the airplane and hugging her wife, Cherelle, for the first time in nearly a year.
“And in doing so, I look forward to being able to say ‘thank you’ to those of you who advocated, wrote, and posted for me in person soon,” she added.
Griner took time to thank everyone who advocated on her behalf during her time imprisoned in Russia. The 32-year-old said “the last 10 months have been a battle at every turn,” but added that “the love from so many of you… helped keep me going.”
The eight-time WNBA All-Star spent 294 days in Russian custody — some of it at a notorious Russian penal colony — after her arrest and subsequent conviction on drugs charges.
But thanks to a prisoner exchange between the US government and Moscow, Griner was brought home just in time for the holidays.
Some close to Griner, including her former coaches and teammates, cautioned against fans getting too far ahead of themselves regarding the superstar’s return to the hardwood.
As two-time WNBA All-Star Napheesa Collier told Insider, “people really do just need to give her space and let her reacclimate into life the way that she wants to.”
“If she never wants to pick up a basketball again, that is up to her,” added Collier, who played alongside Griner on USA Basketball’s gold-medal winning squad in Tokyo.
But Griner, a generational talent and undeniably one of the greatest stars women’s basketball has ever seen, has already decided that lacing up her kicks will be part of her healing process.
It’s welcome news for the Mercury — the franchise that Griner has called home since drafting her with the No. 1 overall pick out of college. The two-time Olympic gold medalist is technically a free agent and, given her status as one of the best players in WNBA history, likely could’ve landed with any of the WNBA’s 11 other franchises.
Instead, she chose to stick with Phoenix. And now begins Griner’s journey back into playing shape, both physically and mentally.
The Mercury are set to tip off the 2023 season on May 17 at Los Angeles’ Crypto.com Arena with a matchup against the Sparks. Should Griner find herself ready to suit up by then, her first game on her longtime home court in Phoenix will come four days later against the Chicago Sky.