Photo: Christian Petersen / Staff via Getty Image
  /  02.22.2023

For 10 long months, WNBA star Brittney Griner was held in a Russian prison and had no communication with the outside world aside from receiving loads of fan mail. Griner came home last December thanks to efforts by her wife Cherelle and President Biden, and she inked a new one-year deal with her longtime team just this week. 

Now, after spending nearly a year in a penal colony on the other side of the globe, BG is officially back on the basketball court. Yesterday (Feb. 21), the Phoenix Mercury shared photos of the two-time Olympic gold medalist in her natural habitat. “There she is,” the caption read as Griner held a ball in the practice facilities. The post comes a day after the organization showed a handwritten note found in the locker room that read, “I’m back MF!!” with Griner’s signature and “#42,” the number on her jersey. 

Griner has a decade-long history with the group. She was the Arizona squad’s first overall WNBA Draft pick in 2013. She won her first WNBA championship the following year. Throughout her years in the WNBA, she juggled playing in the U.S. with a Russian basketball team, UMMC Yekaterinburg. Griner was arrested upon entering the country in February 2022 and sentenced to nine years in prison for carrying prescribed cannabis oil. 

Griner and her teammates will spend the next few months preparing for the upcoming 2023 season. Their first home game, slated for May 21, is going to be a special one, as Griner will make her triumphant return to Phoenix’s Footprint Center after her Russian ordeal. “The moment BG steps back on the court will be one you never forget,” the group said of the Welcome Home Opener. 

Griner’s homecoming is a momentous occasion that she’s been anticipating for a long time. “I dug deep to keep my faith and it was the love from so many of you that kept me going,” she wrote on Instagram after arriving back in the U.S. on Dec. 8. “I intend to play basketball for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury this season, 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.”

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