(AP) — Brittney Griner will be back in the WNBA this season, once again playing with the Phoenix Mercury. Griner, who was a free agent, re-signed with the team Tuesday.
The 32-year-old Griner had said she would return to Phoenix in a social media post in December, after she returned home from her 10-month ordeal in Russia that included time in a Russian jail. Griner had been arrested at an airport just outside of Moscow on drug possession charges a year ago and was brought home in a dramatic high-level prisoner exchange in December.
“We missed BG every day that she was gone and, while basketball was not our primary concern, her presence on the floor, in our locker room, around our organization, and within our community was greatly missed,” Mercury GM Jim Pitman said. “We will continue to use the resources of our organization to support her, on and off the floor, and we are thrilled for her that she gets to return to basketball, which she loves so dearly. This is a special signing and today is a special day for all of us.”
The 6-foot-9 center last played for the Mercury in 2021 and helped the team reach the WNBA Finals. She averaged 20.5 points and 9.5 rebounds that season. Since returning home from Russia, she has been out of the public spotlight, with the exception of appearances at the Super Bowl, the Phoenix Open, and an MLK Day event in Phoenix, where she lives. Drafted No. 1 in 2013 by the Mercury, Griner was listed Saturday on Phoenix’s roster on the WNBA website.
“I do not think any of us will forget where we were on December 8 when we heard BG was coming home or on December 15 when she announced she intended not only to play basketball in 2023 but that it would be for the Mercury,” Mercury President of Business Operations Vince Kozar said. “None of us will ever forget what it will feel like to welcome her back onto her home floor on May 21. To know BG is to love and appreciate BG, and we can’t wait to show her that in person with thousands and thousands of her biggest supporters exactly three months from today at our Welcome Home Opener.”
She skipped a USA Basketball training camp earlier this month, but the organization made it clear she could take all the time she needed to decide if she wanted to play for the U.S. again.
The WNBA has said it will address getting Griner special travel accommodations, such as charter flights, after she signed. “We are very cognizant of BG’s unique situation,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told the AP earlier this month. “We’ve been planning and we’ve been thinking it through with security experts, BG’s side, our side. We’ll find the right time to comment on it when she signs with a team.”