Brittney Griner was given a hero's welcome as she made her return to the basketball court following her detainment in Russia.
Her time behind bars on foreign soil left many people split, with some believing she deserved to serve the time after breaking the law, while other big-name celebs were demanding for her to be released.
Now she has made her first WNBA appearance since arriving home on U.S. shores and she was greeted with a standing ovations from the crowd.
Brittney Griner introduced in front of the home crowd in Phoenix…— Eliav Gabay (@eliavgabay) May 13, 2023
I know it’s preseason, but I got chills…
BG is back.@Sports360AZ @brittneygriner #WNBATwitter pic.twitter.com/yZ8TqFFUsR
Back in early 2022, the Griner was arrested and charged for bringing vape cartridges containing marijuana into Russia.
She was subsequently found guilty of drug smuggling and slapped with a nine-and-a-half-year sentence.
After 10 months behind bars, Griner was released after United State officials reached an agreement to swap her for a notorious Russian firearms dealer detained in America – a move which angered people even more, it seemed.
Now the eight-time WNBA All-Star has made her return to the court for the first time since her ordeal, given a hero's welcome by the Phoenix Mercury fans.
Despite only being a preseason game, there was still plenty of people in attendance to witness Griner's comeback, many of whom rising to their feet to clap and cheer while her name was announced over the PA system.
Brittney Griner made her return to the WNBA tonight.— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) May 13, 2023
The last time she played in a game for the Mercury was in October 2021.
🎥 @PhoenixMercury pic.twitter.com/TyvoKOgl51
Griner only played 17 minutes in her side's 90-71 loss against the LA Sparks, although she did score 10 points accompanied with three rebounds.
At one point following her sentencing, it was widely accepted that she'd never play a WNBA game again.
So to be able to step out onto the court would have been a special moment.
Speaking after the game, her first one for the Mercury since October of 2021, Griner told reporters that she was "grateful".
"I didn't think I would be sitting right here," she said.
I didn't think I would be playing basketball this quickly... it was a lot to take in."
Britney Griner talking on the podium discusses about whether it felt differently when the National Anthem hit.#ValleyTogether#WNBA pic.twitter.com/G0TUMJUPG4— Burn City Sports (@BurnCitySports) May 13, 2023
Privileged basketball player Brittney Griner, who once argued that the National Anthem shouldn’t be played, has finally found some respect for her great country.— Collin Rugg (@CollinRugg) May 13, 2023
On Friday evening, Griner spoke out after she stood for the National Anthem.
"Hearing the national anthem, it… pic.twitter.com/2dIrdtKsld
In July of 2020, Griner made headlines when she admitted that she didn't feel that the American national anthem should be played inside arenas during the WNBA season.
Her statements were in response to the social justice protests at the time.
Now, since being held in a Russian penal colony, the 6-foot-9-inch centre has changed her stance.
“Hearing the national anthem, it definitely hit different,” she said of her return.
“It’s like when you go for the Olympics, you’re sitting there, about to get gold put on your neck, the flags are going up and the anthem is playing, it just hits different. Being here today. It means a lot.”
Featured Image Credit: Twitter/eliavgabay/Alamy
Topics: NBA, Russia, Basketball, US Sports, United States