Brittney Griner speaks on detainment, return to WNBA

Apr 27, 2023; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner speaks to the media during a press conference at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner addressed her playing future — both in and out of the WNBA — and thanked her supporters on Thursday during her first press conference since her near-10-month detainment in Russia ended in December.

“I’m no stranger to hard times,” Griner said before getting emotional. “… Just digging deep. Honestly, you’re going to be faced with adversities in life. This was a pretty big one. I just kinda relied on my hard work to get through it.”

Griner, 32, also addressed the comfortability with her game after missing the entire 2022 WNBA season.

“I always believe in my ability,” the 6-foot-9 center said “… Being realistic, am I exactly where I want to be? No. But I’m on the right track to getting there.”

Griner was quick to show her appreciation to the WNBA and Vice President Kamala Harris for their support. She also applauded her wife, Cherelle, while also delivering a joke at her expense.

Griner, however, appeared very serious when saying that she does not intend to play basketball year-round. In fact, she said she doesn’t envision traveling overseas unless she is part of the U.S. national team.

“I can say for me, I’m never going overseas to play again unless I’m representing my country at the Olympics,” Griner said.

The All-Star center and two-time Olympic gold medal winner was freed in a prisoner swap during heightened political turmoil between the United States and Russia, which invaded Ukraine in the days after her arrest.

Griner — like other American pros — spent part of her offseason in Russia, where salaries for women’s professional basketball players can approach $1 million, nearly four times the highest salary in the WNBA. Griner is slated to make $165,000 this season.

Griner is a seven-time All-Star and was part of the Mercury’s 2014 WNBA title team. She is the league’s all-time leader in blocked shots per game with 2.8.

In 2021, Griner started 30 games for the Mercury, averaging 20.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists. The Mercury selected her with the No. 1 overall pick in 2013.

–Field Level Media

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