Brittney Griner, despite being an opponent on the road on Friday, received a standing ovation from the Los Angeles crowd on Friday night.
Griner’s Phoenix Mercury are kicking off their season in Los Angeles against the Sparks — marking their first WNBA game (excluding preseason) since Oct. 17, 2021 in the WNBA Finals.
«You come to work, you have to put everything aside,» Griner told the ESPN broadcast of his emotions after the first quarter.
Griner was arrested in February 2022 at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after authorities discovered vape canisters filled with cannabis oil in her luggage.
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She was sentenced to nine years in August after pleading guilty to drug charges, but was traded for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in a controversial prisoner exchange in December. She returned to US soil on December 9.
Bout, known internationally as the «Merchant of Death», he was serving 25 years in federal prison after being convicted of conspiracy to kill Americans in connection with supporting a Colombian terrorist organization.
Before the game, she was visited in the locker room by vice president Kamala Harris, who spoke to the Mercury and Sparks together.
«Thank you for everything you did to support Brittney, because I know it was hard and very difficult for you,» Harris said.
Griner said he had a «heartbreaking experience» in Russia.
VP HARRIS PROVIDES SPEECH AHEAD OF BRITTNEY GRINER’S RETURN IN THE WNBA
«I arrived in Moscow to meet the UMMC Ekaterinburg basketball team and was immediately stopped at the airport. That day was the beginning of an unfathomable period in my life that I am only now ready to share,» Griner wrote in a post on Instagram.
The WNBA posted a video of several players from the Los Angeles Sparks, Griner’s opponent on Friday, discussing the WNBA star in a positive light on Thursday.
«What I love about having BG back on the court is that basketball is his safe space.» Sparks forward Chiney Ogwumike said in the video. «Growing up in Houston, Texas with my sister, we follow her career closely, support each other, and just having her back means a lot to us.»
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Griner made his first two field goals of the night.