Brittney Griner will soon be returning to the basketball court following her highly publicized 10-month detention in a Russian prison and her eventual release. According to ESPN, the 32-year-old WNBA star will be returning to the Phoenix Mercury for the 2023 season after she signed a one-year contract with the team on Saturday. The deal is reportedly worth $165,100.
Griner was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury as the first overall pick in 2013. She last played for the team in 2021. And she was very instrumental in the team’s stellar campaign during that season. They made it to the WNBA finals but lost to the Chicago Sky.
During that season, Griner averaged 20.5 points, 1.9 blocks, 9.5 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. The basketball star was, however, unable to play for her team in 2022 because of her detention in Russia. As previously reported by Face2Face Africa, Russian authorities in February last year arrested Griner on drug smuggling charges after she entered the European nation during the WNBA offseason.
Griner was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport for allegedly possessing vaporizer cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage which she reportedly said was used to treat a medical condition. The U.S. basketball star was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony.
Since 2015, the two-time Olympic champion had been playing for the Russian women’s basketball team UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason. The 32-year-old was also part of other WNBA stars who were set to feature for teams in Russia as well as Ukraine over the course of the winter season, the New York Post reported.
Griner was eventually released in December after a one-for-one prisoner swap for international Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. The former Soviet military officer was convicted of conspiring to kill Americans and began his 25-year sentence a decade ago in the U.S. Nicknamed the “Merchant of Death”, Bout was also accused of acquiring and exporting anti-aircraft missiles, and giving material support to a terrorist organization, according to CNN.
Following her release, Griner announced she’ll be returning to Phoenix. “I also want to make one thing very clear,” Griner stated in an Instagram post. “I intend to play basketball for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury this season.”