Brittney Griner returns to basketball court one year after Russia arrest

WNBA star Brittney Griner was all smiles as the returned to the basketball court with her team Phoenix Mercury one year since she was arrested at a Russian airport.

The 32-year-old athlete, who missed the entire WNBA season last year, picked things up right where she left them after the Phoenix Mercury shared several snaps of their star player beaming during practice.

“There she is,” the team’s official Instagram account wrote Tuesday.

While she’s got a little ways to go until the season kickstarts in May, Griner made it known that she’s ready to put on her game face, writing on the whiteboard in the team’s locker room, “I’M BACK MF!!”

The workout came just days after Griner inked a one-year deal to stay with Phoenix — the team that drafted her first overall back in 2013.

The eight-time All-Star last played in 2021, when she led the team on a run to the WNBA Finals. 

During that season, Griner averaged some of the best numbers of her career, putting up 20.5 points and 1.9 blocks a game. She also averaged a career-high in rebounds with 9.5 boards a contest.

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted to a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Monday, June 27, 2022.
Griner was arrested in a Russian airport over cannabis oil.
AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File

The former Baylor standout will suit up for the team’s home opener on May 21, the team announced.

Griner’s world was momentarily turned upside down after she was arrested for carrying cannabis oil at a Russian airport in Feb. 2022.

She was then moved to a penal colony after a court rejected the appeal of her nine-year sentence, before being swapped on Dec. 8 in exchange for Russian arms dealer “Merchant of Death” Viktor Bout in December.

Brittney Griner
Griner last week inked a one-year deal with Phoenix Mercury.

In mid-December, Griner first spoke out after her release, saying she had “dug deep to keep my faith” that she would eventually be returned to home soil.

Griner’s exchange put a spotlight on former US Marine Paul Whelan. The Biden administration attempted to bring Griner and Whalen to the US in exchange for Bout but negotiations broke down, according to the New York Times.

The Mercury revealed its leadership team spent Tuesday afternoon writing letters to Whelan.

Paul Whelan spoke to his lawyer through a glass window in January 2022.
Whelan, 52, was sentenced to 16 years of hard labor in 2020 after a Russian court found him guilty of espionage.

Whelan, who was detained ​at a Moscow hotel and accused of espionage in Dec. 2018, said he feels like he’s been left behind by the Biden White House as he remains captive in Russia.

Whelan said he was “disappointed” that the Biden administration has not done more to get him out ​after Griner was sprung, telling CNN in December, “I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here.”

“I am greatly disappointed that more has not been done to secure my release, especially as the four-year anniversary of my arrest is coming up,” ​the 53-year-old said. “I was arrested for a crime that never occurred.”

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