When Brittney Griner announced her intent to continue her WNBA career in December after spending 10 months in Russian detainment, the basketball community knew it was only a matter of time before she re-signed with the Phoenix Mercury. On February 21, that day finally came as she signed her contract.
“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,” said Mercury general manager Jim Pittman. The deal is reportedly one-year for $165,100.
Griner was the No. 1 overall pick by the Mercury in 2013 and she has spent her entire career with the team. In 254 games played (9 seasons), she’s averaging 17.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.5 steals, and 2.8 blocks in 30.9 minutes per game. She’s a 7-time All-Star and one-time WNBA champion.
Other WNBA Players to Keep an Eye On This Season
Brittney Griner returning to the WNBA is great for the league – after all, she’s one of the greatest WNBA players of all-time. Anyone who watched the 2022 season understands the void that was left as we all awaited her return to the United States – it’s something that loomed over the entire league all year long.
Now that she’s back, the 2023 WNBA season will be one of the best seasons in recent history. There’s a lot to look forward to, especially considering all the player movement that happened this offseason – much like the NBA, the WNBA is starting to see the rise of superteams as superstars start to team up.
From Candace Parker joining A’ja Wilson in Las Vegas to Breanna Stewart joining Sabrina Ionescu in New York, the 2023 season is about to be lit. It’ll be interesting to see how things shape up and with the regular season just two months away, let’s take a look at some of the WNBA players primed for success.
20. Allisha Gray
Allisha Gray is a 6-foot-0 guard who currently plays for the Atlanta Dream after being dealt by the Dallas Wings just a few days ago. She played college ball at UNC and South Carolina before being drafted by the Wings with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. She is entering her seventh WNBA season.
Gray has played in 180 games and started in 160 of them. She’s averaging 11.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.5 blocks in 28.7 minutes per game in her career and coming off a year that saw her average a career-high 13.3 points and 2.5 assists per game. Gray is a former Rookie of the Year.
19. Candace Parker
Candace Parker is a 6-foot-4 forward-center who currently plays for the Las Vegas Aces after signing with the team this offseason. She played college ball at Tennessee before being drafted by the Los Angeles Sparks with the No. 1 overall pick in 2008. She’s now entering her 16th season in the league.
Parker has played in 392 games in her career and has averaged 16.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.5 blocks in 30.7 minutes per game. While she isn’t as dominant as she once was, she’s still effective and is a two-time champion, two-time MVP, and former Defensive Player of the Year.
18. DeWanna Bonner
DeWanna Bonner is a 6-foot-4 forward-guard who currently plays for the Connecticut Sun – it’ll be her fourth season with the team. She played college ball at Auburn before being drafted by the Phoenix Mercury with the No. 5 overall pick in 2009. She spent the first 10 years of her career with the team.
Bonner has played in 422 games in her career and has averaged 14.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.7 blocks in 30.3 minutes per game. She’s a two-time WNBA Champion – one of which with Brittney Griner as her teammate (in 2014) – and is a three-time Sixth Woman of the Year winner.
17. Diamond Miller
Diamond Miller is a 6-foot-3 shooting guard who currently plays for the Maryland Terrapins – she’s a senior and is set to enter the 2023 WNBA Draft in April. Many experts have her listed as the No. 2 draft prospect this season and she’s expected to play a major role on whatever team ends up drafting her.
Miller has played in 112 college games since 2019 and has averaged 14.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.4 steals, and 0.9 blocks in 25.5 minutes per game. She’s absolutely lighting it up this year with 19.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.0 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game – all of which are career-highs.
16. Aliyah Boston
Aliyah Boston is a 6-foot-5 forward-center who currently plays for the South Carolina Gamecocks – she’s a senior and is set to enter the 2023 WNBA Draft in April. In fact, she’s the clear-cut No. 1 overall pick and will likely be drafted by the Indiana Fever – unless they decide to trade the No. 1 pick in the draft.
Boston has played in 131 college games since 2019 and has averaged 14.2 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.0 steals, and 2.4 blocks in 27.1 minutes per game – she won a national title last year. Her stats are down this season, but that shouldn’t scare anyone away as she remains the top college player.
15. Jackie Young
Jackie Young is a 6-foot-0 guard who currently plays for the Las Vegas Aces – it’ll be her fifth season with the team. She played college ball at Notre Dame before being drafted by the Aces with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft. She has improved her game each season since entering the league.
Young has played in 122 career games and has averaged 11.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.0 steals in 28.5 minutes per game. She’s a defending champ with the Aces after putting up 15.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.4 steals – all of which are career-highs, except her assists per game totals.
14. Alyssa Thomas
Alyssa Thomas is a 6-foot-2 forward who currently plays for the Connecticut Sun – it’ll be her 10th season in the WNBA. She played college ball at Maryland before being drafted by the New York Liberty with the No. 4 overall pick in 2014. She was involved in a draft-day trade that sent her to Connecticut.
Thomas has played in 240 career games in the WNBA and has averaged 11.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 steals, and 0.3 blocks in 29.2 minutes per game. She’s a three-time All-Star and is coming off a season that saw her put up 13.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 1.7 steals in 36 games played.
13. Brionna Jones
Brionna Jones is a 6-foot-3 forward who currently plays for the Connecticut Sun – she has spent her entire six-year career with the Sun. She played college ball at Maryland before being drafted by the Sun with the No. 8 pick in 2017. She went from being a role player to starter to 2022 Sixth Woman of the Year.
Jones has played in 166 career games (60 starts) and has averaged 8.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.4 blocks in 18.4 minutes per game. In addition to winning Sixth Woman of the Year last season, she was the Most Improved Player in 2021 and has been named an All-Star two years in a row.
12. Jewell Loyd
Jewell Loyd is a 5-foot-10 guard who currently plays for the Seattle Storm – she has spent her entire eight-year career with the team. She played college ball at Notre Dame before being drafted by the Storm with the No. 1 overall pick in 2015. She entered the league with a bang, winning 2015 Rookie of the Year.
Loyd has played in 252 career WNBA games and has averaged 15.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.2 blocks in 29.3 minutes per game. She has been a regular starter ever since entering the league – earning four All-Star appearances and winning two WNBA Championships with the Storm.
11. Elena Delle Donne
Elena Delle Donne is a 6-foot-5 forward-guard who currently plays for the Washington Mystics – it’ll be her sixth season with the team. She played college ball at the University of Delaware before being drafted by the Chicago Sky with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft – she spent four seasons with the team.
Delle Donne has played in 218 career WNBA games and has averaged 19.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.7 steals, and 1.5 blocks in 30.5 minutes per game. She’s a six-time All-Star, one-time (2019) WNBA Champion, 2013 Rookie of the Year, two-time MVP, and won the 2015 Community Assist Award.
10. Natasha Howard
Natasha Howard is a 6-foot-2 forward who currently plays for the Dallas Wings after being traded to the team this offseason. She played college ball at Florida State before being drafted by the Indiana Fever with the No. 5 overall pick in 2014. She has also played for the Lynx, Storm, and most recently the Liberty.
Howard has played in 270 career games in the WNBA and has averaged 10.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.0 blocks in 20.8 minutes per game. She’s a born winner and has already won three WNBA titles – as well as the 2018 Most improved Player and 2019 Defensive Player of the Year.
9. Jonquel Jones
Jonquel Jones is a 6-foot-6 forward who currently plays for the New York Liberty after being traded to the team this offseason – she spent the previous six years with the Connecticut Sun. She played her college ball at Clemson and George Washington before being drafted by the Sparks with the No. 6 overall pick.
Jones has played in 196 career WNBA games and has averaged 13.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.9 steals, and 1.4 blocks in 24.8 minutes per game. She’s a four-time All-Star, 2017 Most Improved Player, 2018 Sixth Woman of the Year, and most recently the 2021 MVP. Now, she wants to win a title.
8. Arike Ogunbowale
Arike Ogunbowale is a 5-foot-8 guard who currently plays for the Dallas Wings and is entering her fourth season in the league – all with the Wings. She played college ball at Notre Dame before being drafted by Dallas with the No. 5 overall pick in 2019. She has been a regular starter ever since entering the league.
Ogunbowale has played in 117 career games in the WNBA and has averaged 19.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.3 steals in 32.1 minutes per game – she had a career-high 22.8 points in 2020. She won the 2021 Community Assist Award and the 2021 All-Star Game MVP, but is destined for much more.
7. Skylar Diggins-Smith
Skylar Diggins-Smith is a 5-foot-9 guard who currently plays for the Phoenix Mercury – it’ll be her fourth season with the team after requesting a trade from Dallas in 2020, a year after having her first child. She played college ball at Notre Dame before being drafted by the Tulsa Shock with the No. 3 pick in 2013.
Diggins-Smith has played in 252 career games in the WNBA and has averaged 16.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.3 steals, and 0.6 blocks in 32.1 minutes per game. She announced her second pregnancy in October and hasn’t revealed if she will play in 2023, but she’ll be having a baby soon!
6. Kelsey Plum
Kelsey Plum is a 5-foot-8 guard who currently plays for the Las Vegas Aces and is entering her fifth season with the team – she was a member of the San Antonio Stars before the franchise was moved to Las Vegas in 2018. She played college ball at Washington and was the No. 1 overall pick in 2017.
Plum has played in 158 career games and averaged 12.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 0.8 steals in 26.7 minutes per game – she had a career-high 20.2 points, 5.1 assists, and 1.0 steals en route to a title last season. She’s a former Sixth Woman of the Year and recently got married to an NFL tight end.
5. Rhyne Howard
Rhyne Howard is a 6-foot-2 guard who currently plays for the Atlanta Dream – she’s entering her second season in the WNBA. She played college ball at Kentucky before being drafted by the Dream with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft. She was easily the most impressive rookie in the league last year.
Howard played in 34 games last season and averaged 16.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.6 steals, and 0.8 blocks in 31.4 minutes per game. She was named an All-Star, Player of the Week once, Rookie of the Month four times, and 2022 Rookie of the Year. At just 22 years old, the sky’s the limit for Howard.
4. Napheesa Collier
Napheesa Collier is a 6-foot-1 forward who currently plays for the Minnesota Lynx – it’ll be her fifth season with the team. She played college basketball at the University of Connecticut (UCONN) before being drafted by the Lynx with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2019 draft. She’s looking to make a comeback.
Collier only played in 4 games last season due to injury, but has played in 89 career games in the WNBA – averaging 14.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.1 blocks in 33.4 minutes per game in her career. She was the 2019 Rookie of the Year and has been named to two All-Star games thus far.
3. Sabrina Ionescu
Sabrina Ionescu is a 5-foot-11 guard who currently plays for the New York Liberty – she’s entering her fourth season in the NBA. She played college ball at Oregon before being drafted by the Liberty with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft. She’s one of the most versatile WNBA players – a stat sheet stuffer.
Ionescu has played in 69 career games in the WNBA and has averaged 15.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.4 blocks in 31.0 minutes per game – she set career-highs in rebounds, assists, and steals last season. She was named to her first All-Star roster last year – you’d think she’d have more.
2. A’ja Wilson
A’ja Wilson is a 6-foot-4 forward who currently plays for the Las Vegas Aces – she’s entering her sixth season in the WNBA. She played college ball at South Carolina before being drafted by the Aces with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft. She’s easily one of the most consistent and reliable WNBA players.
Wilson has played in 149 games and averaged 19.1 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.7 blocks in 30.5 minutes per game. She’s a four-time All-Star, 2018 Rookie of the Year. 2019 Community Assist Award winner, two-time MVP, one-time Champion, and 2022 Defensive Player of the Year.
1. Breanna Stewart
Breanna Stewart is a 6-foot-4 forward who currently plays for the New York Liberty after famously signing with the team this past offseason. She played college ball at UCONN before being drafted by the Seattle Storm with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft. She’ll be entering her seventh season in the league.
Stewart has played in 183 career games in the WNBA and has averaged an impressive 20.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.5 blocks in 32.4 minutes per game. She’s a two-time Champion, 2018 MVP, two-time Finals MVP, former Rookie of the Year, and four-time All-Star so far in her career.
What Does 2023 Have in Store for Brittney Griner?
Of all the WNBA players we’ll have our eye on this season, no one will have the spotlight shining on them like Brittney Griner. While it might take some time for her to shake the rust off, let’s not forget that she had one of the best seasons of her career in 2021 – including a career-high with 9.5 rebounds per game.
She finished the 2021 season with 20.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.4 steals, and 1.9 blocks per game. The Phoenix Mercury finished the season 19-13 and entered the playoffs with the No. 5 seed. Despite the low seeding, they advanced to the WNBA Finals – where they lost to the Chicago Sky.
The team took a step back in her absence in 2022, finishing last year with a 15-21 record and lost to the Las Vegas Aces in the first round of the playoffs. They’ll be a much stronger team this time around and will be looking to return to the WNBA Finals with Brittney Griner – a realistic goal, but it won’t be easy.
How the Sports World is Reacting to Brittney Griner Returning Home After a 10-Month Detainment in Russia
After being ‘wrongfully detained’ and spending nearly 10 months in Russian detention, Brittney Griner finally landed on United States’ soil and returned home to her family on Friday, December 9th. In total, she spent 294 days in detention as a result of her nine-year sentence for allegedly smuggling marijuana.
Griner was arrested at the Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow back in February. At the time, Russian officials found marijuana concentrate (cannabis oil) cartridges in her bag. She pleaded guilty in July and received a nine-year sentence in August – at which point she was transferred to a penal colony.
Despite the ongoing tension between the United States and Russia – largely due to the Russian’s invasion of Ukraine, which began around the same time as Griner’s arrest – Joe Biden agreed to free a former Soviet Army lieutenant colonel, Viktor Bout, as part of the prisoner exchange with Vladimir Putin.
Sports World Reacts to Brittney Griner Returning Home
Upon her arrival on US soil, White House officials confirmed that Brittney Griner was in good spirits and appeared to be in good health. Like other prisoners who return home, such as Trevor Reed, she was given specialized medical services and counseling to ensure a smooth transition back into society.
“This is a day we’ve worked toward for a long time. We never stopped pushing for her release. It took painstaking and intense negotiations, and I want to thank all the hardworking public servants across my administration who worked tirelessly to secure her release,” said President Joe Biden of the homecoming.
For the past 10 months, family, friends, fans, and others in the basketball community haven’t stopped saying the name Brittney Griner as America vowed not to forget about her. Now 10 months later, the sports world is reacting to the news of her release as America celebrates her return to Phoenix.
15. USA Basketball
Brittney Griner first played for USA Basketball as a 22-year-old in 2012, but couldn’t compete in the Olympics that year due to a family illness. She did, however, appear in the 2016 and 2020 Olympics, as well as the 2014 and 2018 World Cups, for Team USA – helping the team to a gold medal at each one.
In a statement posted to Twitter, USA Basketball praised Griner’s ‘bravery and resolve over the last nearly 300 days.’ They expressed how relieved they are to learn of her coming home, grateful they are to the US government and others who worked behind the scenes, and hopeful that Paul Whelan comes home soon.
14. Chiney Ogwumike
Chiney Ogwumike is a fellow WNBA player for the Los Angeles Sparks, basketball analyst and co-host for ESPN, and current Vice-President of the WNBA Players Association. Her voice matters and she has taken every opportunity to advocate for Brittney Griner – using her platform to inform and educate others.
“The best news to start our day with: finally, our sister BG is coming home!! So grateful for all those who tirelessly worked to make this happen. Welcome home, Brittney!!!!” said Chiney on Twitter. In a separate tweet, she showed her support for Paul Whelan and loved how Cherelle said her family was now whole.
13. Sophie Cunningham
Sophie Cunningham was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury with the first pick of the second round in 2019. She was teammates with Brittney Griner for three seasons before her arrest and detainment. She had the best season of her career in 2022, so it would be awesome to see the two reunite on the Mercury soon.
“Our sister BG is home🏼 all praise to God! time to keep praying and fighting for other Americans being wrongfully imprisoned…. the fight isn’t over but we are thankful!” said Cunningham on Twitter. She then clapped back at a user with a comment after they tried to suggest she wasn’t advocating for Paul Whelan.
12. Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King is one of the biggest voices in all of sports, especially when it comes to gender equality and women’s rights. The 12-time major tennis champion hasn’t stopped saying Brittney Griner’s name since learning of her detainment and was quick to issue a reaction on Twitter once learning of the news.
“Brittney Griner is free! After 294 days in Russian captivity, @POTUS negotiated a “one-for-one” prisoner swap. Thank you to President Biden, and to all those who worked so hard to secure her freedom,” said Billie Jean King on Twitter. As expected, users in the comments section had mixed emotions and feelings.
11. Robert Griffin III
Robert Griffin III, also known as RGIII, is a former NFL quarterback and current NFL analyst for ESPN. Much like Brittney Griner, RGIII was a standout athlete at Baylor University. He played men’s college football between 2008 and 2011, while Griner played women’s basketball between 2009 and 2013.
On Twitter, he wants everyone to Twitter, but not at the expense of Paul Whelan – who remains jailed in Russia as we speak. “Celebrate Brittney Griner coming home to her family and now let’s get Marine Paul Whelan home too,” he wrote. It’s a message that was echoed by many others in the sports community.
10. Phoenix Mercury
The Phoenix Mercury drafted Brittney Griner with the No. 1 overall pick in 2013 and she has played her entire nine-year career with the team. In 254 games played, Griner is averaging 17.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.5 steals, and 2.8 blocks per game. She’s one of the greatest players of all-time.
“No more days. She’s coming home,” the team said on their official Twitter account, sharing a photo of BG in uniform. As of right now, there’s no indication on whether or not BG will continue her WNBA career, but the Mercury would love to have her back whenever she’s ready. They were just 15=21 last season.
9. Shey Peddy
Shey Peddy joined the Phoenix Mercury midway through the 2020 season and was teammates with Brittney Griner for 1.5 seasons leading up to BG’s arrest. Her role with the team has increased since BG left, with Peddy having the best season of her career last year in BG’s absence. She’s happy BG is home.
“Went from FREE BG to BG is FREE!! Won’t he do it! 🙌🏾” she posted on Twitter. “It’s sad to see how hateful and ignorant people have been over BG’s release today. But let me save y’all some time and unnecessary energy. Regardless of what you think, BG IS HOME,” she said in a second tweet.
8. Steve Kerr
Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors, took the time to share a heartfelt message to Brittney Griner and her family on the team’s official Twitter account. “Brittney, I just want to tell you on behalf of the entire Warriors’ organization we are so thrilled for you and your family,” said the coach.
“We can’t imagine what you’ve been through [this past year]. Unbelievable perseverance that you’ve shown just to make it through your time in Russia and we’re so happy you’re coming home,” he said in the near-minute long video. He also thanked the WNBA and NBA communities for the support they’ve shown.
The WNBA has been one of Brittney Griner’s homes for the past nine years. She has been one of the most dominant players on the floor since entering the league in 2013. Whether she decides to retire or continue her career in the WNBA, she’s a future Hall of Famer and will go down as one of the greatest.
After 294 days of tireless work… Our friend, sister, loved one, Brittney Griner is FREE. We love you BG 🧡” the WNBA wrote on their official Twitter account. They later posted a photo of all the different reactions around the league. From day 1 to day 294, we never forgot about you BG,” the WNBA wrote.
6. Rebecca Lobo
Rebecca Lobo is a former WNBA player and current ESPN analyst who covers the WNBA, college women’s basketball, and the NBA. She spent six seasons in the WNBA between 1997 and 2003 – averaging 6.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.0 assists, and 0.9 blocks per game in 121 games played.
“Cherelle Griner has been incredible throughout this ordeal. She continues to speak eloquently on behalf of BG and others who are wrongfully detained in Russia,” said Lobo on Twitter, praising BG’s wife for using her voice and platform for the greater good over the past 10 months. Cherelle’s hard work paid off.
5. Jonquel Jones
Jonquel Jones is a WNBA player who currently plays for the Connecticut Sun – she’s one of the best forwards in the league and was named MVP just two seasons ago. She was also a teammate of Brittney Griner in the Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League, having both played for UMMC Ekaterinburg.
“How bout Christmas miracles! God Is good! I’m so happy right now! BG free!!!! 🙌🏾😊” wrote Jonquel Jones on her Twitter. Watching Griner and Jones battle it out on the court was always a joy to watch. One can only hope that we’ll get to see it again, but that’s a decision for Brittney and the Griner family to make.
4. Adam Silver
Adam Silver is the current commissioner of the NBA – a role he has held since 2014, though he originally began with the NBA in 1992. He was also the league’s deputy commissioner and chief operating officer before taking over as commissioner when David Stern retired. He’s one of the best commissioners in all of sports.
“Brittney has had to endure an unimaginable situation and we’re thrilled that she is on her way home to her family and friends. We thank the members of the NBA and WNBA community who never wavered in their efforts to raise awareness of Brittney’s unjust circumstances,” said Silver in a recent statement.
3. Cathy Engelbert
Cathy Engelbert is the current commissioner of the WNBA – a role she has held since 2019. She’s technically the first commissioner of the WNBA, with previous leaders being titled ‘President.’ She was also the first ever female CEO of Deloitte, a company she was with for more than three decades.
“There has not been a day over the past ten months where we all haven’t had Brittney Griner on our minds and in our hearts and that has now turned into a collective wave of joy and relief knowing that she will soon be reunited with her family, the WNBA player community, and her friends,” she said on Twitter.
2. Baylor University
After playing varsity basketball and volleyball at Nimitz High School, Brittney Griner began her college basketball career at Baylor University. She played four seasons for the Bears and averaged 22.2 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 5.1 blocks per game. Her 223 blocks in a season and 748 career blocks are all-time records.
“Brittney Griner is a member of our Baylor Family, and we are extremely grateful that she is on her way back home to the United States. We praise God this day has finally come,” said Baylor President Linda Livingstone and Director of Athletics Mack Rhoades. “Our hearts go out to Brittney and her family.”
1. Brianna Turner
Brianna Turner was a first round draft pick of the Phoenix Mercury in 2019 and was teammates with Brittney Griner for three seasons before her arrest and detainment earlier this year. Turner has been a full-time starter since 2020 and averages 5.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.6 blocks.
She posted a series of Tweets regarding the news of Griner’s release. “You can be supportive of Brittney Griner’s release without talking down on Paul Whelan. You can also be supportive of releasing Paul Whelan without talking down on Brittney Griner. You don’t have to support one or the other. You can actually support both,” she wrote in one tweet.
What’s Next for Brittney Griner?
As news of her release settles in and she begins the process of healing and recovering, the future of Brittney Griner remains uncertain. She has yet to confirm or deny her return to the WNBA, but that’s the last thing she’s thinking about right now. Nonetheless, she did make her return to the court on Sunday.
According to ESPN, Brittney Griner took to the basketball court on Sunday for the first time in 10 months. Wearing Chuck Taylor sneakers, Phoenix Mercury shorts, and a Title IX shirt, she underwent a light workout and reports are saying her first move on the court was a slam dunk – a relieving one, at that.
With that said, we’d be remiss to not mention Paul Whelan – a former United States’ Marine who has been ‘wrongfully detained’ on suspicion of espionage (spying) since 2018. Despite Trevor Reed and Brittney Griner returning home this year, he remains in Russian detention. Don’t stop saying his name.
Brittney Griner Announces Her Return to the WNBA Next Season — Here Are Some of the Biggest Moments of Her Career So Far
When Brittney Griner stepped foot in the United States earlier this month after spending nearly 10 months in Russian detainment, no one was thinking about what this means for her professional basketball career – we were all just happy to see her home. And not just home, but safe, healthy, and in good spirits.
On December 16, Brittney Griner addressed the public for the first time since making her return to the US. In a lengthy post on Instagram, Griner expressed how good it felt to finally be home. I dug deep to keep my faith and it was the love from so many of you that helped keep me going,” she wrote in the caption.
“I also want to make one thing very clear: 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,” she continued – confirming her return to the WNBA in 2023.
15 Moments That Remind Us How Great Brittney Griner Is
Brittney Griner has already had one of the greatest careers in women’s basketball history. It all started at Baylor University, where she played four years of college basketball. In 148 collegiate games, Griner averaged 22.2 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.5 steals, and 5.1 blocks in 32.0 minutes per game.
She was eventually drafted into the WNBA in 2013 and spent the next nine seasons with the Phoenix Mercury before her detainment in Russia. She’ll enter the 2023 season with 17.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.5 steals, and 2.8 blocks in 30.9 minutes per game throughout her 254-game career.
Her career is filled with incredible moments, unbelievable performances, amazing plays, and precious memories that remind us just how great Brittney Griner has been for the WNBA. Not only that, but it gets us excited for what’s to come. For now, here are some of the best moments of her career thus far.
15. 2012 NCAA Champion
2012 was nothing short of an incredible season for Brittney Griner, who was a junior at Baylor University at the time. She played in 40 games that year and averaged 23.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.6 steals, and 5.2 blocks per game – she finished the season with more blocks (206) than any other TEAM.
Not only was she the AP Player of the Year and Premier Player of Women’s College Basketball, but she put up 26 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 blocks in an 80-61 win over Notre Dame in the NCAA Women’s Championship game. It was a season we may never see from another college player ever again.
14. No. 1 Pick in 2013 WNBA Draft
The 2013 WNBA Draft was held on April 15, 2013 in Bristol, Connecticut – at the ESPN studios – and the Phoenix Mercury had the No. 1 overall pick after going 7-27 the season prior (the second-worst record in the WNBA that year). They were looking for a cornerstone piece to their franchise and they found her.
The Mercury selected Brittney Griner with the first pick in the draft, despite Elene Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins-Smith available. Delle Donne would go No. 2 and Diggins went No. 3 – interestingly enough, Diggins was traded to the Mercury in 2020, officially joining forces with Griner. The two are electric.
13. Sets Record for Most Blocks in Single Game
On June 29, 2014, Brittney Griner recorded 11 blocks in an 80-77 victory over the Tulsa Shock – a game that featured Skylar Diggins-Smith as an opponent, not a teammate. Griner also finished the game with 21 points, 8 rebounds, and 1 steal in what was an improbable double-double and near-triple-double.
Griner would end up accomplishing this feat again on September 17, 2015 – against the same team, the Tulsa Shock, and in the playoffs. She also put up 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 1 assists in what was, yet again, an improbable double-double and near-triple-double. No other WNBA player has ever had more.
12. Sets Record for Most Blocks in Single Season
Brittney Griner has always been known for her ability to block and can only be compared to some of the greats – like Margo Dydek and Lisa Leslie. With that said, they only had as much as 10 blocks in a single game, which doesn’t beat Griner’s mark of 11, like we mentioned above. That’s not the only thing, though.
Griner also has another record over those two ladies – most blocks in a single season. She accomplished it during the 2014 season (the same season from above) with 129 blocks in 34 games played. The most Dydek ever had in a single season was 114 blocks in 1998, while Leslie put up a career-high 98 in 2004.
11. 2014 Defensive Player of the Year
Despite it being just her second year in the league, Brittney Griner already made her mark on the WNBA and was named 2014 Defensive Player of the Year. All in all, she averaged 0.6 steals and 3.8 blocks per game – 22 steals and 129 blocks in total. She was a player the Mercury could rely on defensively.
In addition to her record-breaking 11-block game, Griner also recorded a 9-block game in the 2014 season – it occurred against the Atlanta Dream on August 5. She finished the season with 6 games of at least 6 blocks, 10 games of at least 5 blocks, and 16 games with at least 4 blocks. She was consistent.
10. 2014 WNBA Champion
But wait, that’s not all the 2014 season had in store for Brittney Griner. Above all else, Brittney Griner helped lead her team to a WNBA championship at just 23 years old. In 7 playoff games, the Mercury went 6-1 – sweeping the Los Angeles Sparks and Chicago Sky, while defeating the Minnesota Lynx in Game 3.
Despite putting up just 6 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 3 blocks in the first playoff game, Griner went on to average 18.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.3 steals, and 3.5 blocks per game over the next six playoff games en route to a championship win. She only has one, but it might not be her last..
9. Gold Medal at 2014 World Cup
The 2014 FIBA World Cup was Brittney Griner’s first major appearance with the United States’ national team – having skipped the 2012 Olympics due to family illness and school. To no one’s surprise, the women’s team went 3-0 in the group stage, giving them a bye in the first round of the knockout stage.
The US went 3-0 in the knockout stage, too. Griner led the way for the United States with 17 points in the first game and helped her team win by at least 12 points in the final two games – including a 77-64 win against Spain in the final. This gave Griner her first gold medal at the World Cup – a worthy milestone.
8. 2015 Defensive Player of the Year
After her accolade-filled campaign in 2014, Brittney Griner put together one of the most dominant defensive seasons in WNBA history. She won Defensive Player of the Year after averaging 4.0 blocks per game in 26 games – setting yet another WNBA record previously held by Margo Dydek (3.8 blocks).
Griner recorded her blocks in bunches, including a season-high 9 blocks against the Minnesota Lynx on August 30. She went on to have at least 7 blocks in 4 games, at least 6 blocks in 7 games, and at least 5 blocks in 11 games. This is also the same season she recorded 11 blocks during the 2015 playoffs.
7. Records Sixth Triple-Double in WNBA History
On July 3, 2016, Brittney Griner put up an unreal stat line – one that has only been done by just 5 other players in WNBA history. She recorded the league’s sixth ever triple-double in a 95-87 win over the Atlanta Dream – putting up an impressive 27 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, and 10 blocks in the process.
It’s the only triple-double of her career, but she has come close on several other occasions. While triple-doubles are starting to become more and more common in the WNBA, doing so with points, rebounds, and blocks is much more rare – it’s not everyday someone records 10 blocks in a game.
6. Gold Medal at 2016 Olympics
After missing the 2012 Olympics due to family issues and school, Brittney Griner finally made her Olympic debut at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. The women’s basketball tournament ran from August 6 until August 20 with the US going 5-0 in the group stage – Griner led the US with 18 points and 13 rebounds in Game 5.
A 110-64 win over Japan in the knockout stage set the tone, which was followed by an 86-67 win over France to advance to the final. It was a rematch from the 2014 World Cup, with the US and Spain fighting for gold once again. The US went on to win 101-72, leaving absolutely no doubt to who the better team is.
5. Scores a Career-High 38 Points in 2017
During the first four years of her career, Brittney Griner was averaging 14.5 points per game. In 2017, something happened that resulted in her scoring averages going way up – she put up a career-high 21.9 points per game that season, including six games with at least 30 points. She was as dominant as ever.
Less than a month after putting up 32 points against the Indiana Fever, Griner scored a career-high 38 points against the same team on June 7, 2017. She also had 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 2 blocks in the 98-90 victory. She was 13 points away from outscoring the entire Fever starting lineup (50 points combined).
4. 2017 Community Assist Award
Brittney Griner has made a name for herself on the basketball court, but it’s what she does off the court that really makes a difference in the community. It’s something she was recognized for on July 27, 2017 when she received the June WNBA Cares Community Assist Award for her efforts in the community.
It came after Griner helped collect more than 650 pairs of shoes for homeless individuals in need through her ‘BG’s Heart & Sole Shoe Drive.’ She has also been a very big voice in the LGBTQ+ community, which she’s a part of – she came out as lesbian in 2013 and married her wife, Cherelle Griner, in June 2019.
3. Gold Medal at 2018 World Cup
In 2018, Brittney Griner appeared in her second World Cup with the United States after winning a gold medal in 2014. She helped lead the team to a 3-0 record in the group stage, yet again, with a point differential of +58 through those three games. As a result, they received a bye into the quarterfinals.
In the knockout stage, the US defeated Nigeria 71-40 in the quarterfinals and then defeated Belgium 93-77 in the semifinals to advance to the final – where they were met by Australia. Improving to 6-0 in the tournament, the US won 73-65, ending the knockout stage with a point differential of +64 in three games.
2. Gold Medal at 2020 Olympics
In 2020, Brittney Griner appeared in her second Olympics with the United States after winning a gold medal in 2016. They started the tournament out like any other tournament, going 3-0 in the group stage after beating Nigeria 81-72, beating Japan 86-69, and beating France 93-82 to start things off.
Despite entering the quarterfinals as the No. 2 seed, the United States picked up the pace and started playing their style of basketball. They beat Australia 79-55 and Serbia 79-59 before routing Japan 90-75 in the final. Griner won her second Olympic gold medal and fourth gold medal overall with Team USA.
1. Named to W25 List in 2021
In 2021, the WNBA celebrated their 25th anniversary since being founded in 1996. To commemorate the progress the league has seen over the past 2.5 decades, the WNBA decided to announce their W25 list – which consists of the top-25 WNBA players of all-time. Of course, the list included Brittney Griner.
She joined Lisa Leslie, Lauren Jackson, Tina Charles, Sylvia Fowles, and Yolanda Griffith as the other centers to make the list. She was also just one of three players to represent the Phoenix Mercury – including Cappie Pondexter (with team between 2006 and 2009) and Griner’s teammate Diana Taurasi (with team since 2004).
What to Expect From Brittney Griner in 2023
Brittney Griner announcing her return to the WNBA is more than just good news for the Phoenix Mercury – it’s good news for the entire league. Despite all the talent in the WNBA today, Griner remains one of the most dominant and valuable. Something tells me she’s going to put that on full display in 2023.
With that said, it’s important to understand that she hasn’t played basketball in nearly one year and after missing the entire season last year, it may take some time for her to re-adjust to the physical and mental demands of the WNBA season. Don’t worry, she’ll still make an immediate impact for the Mercury.
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She’ll be reunited with a squad that includes Skylar Diggins-Smith, Brianna Turner, Kia Nurse, Sophie Cunningham, Diana Taurasi, and Diamond DeShields. When you add Griner to that list, it creates one of the most dynamic and versatile teams in the entire league. They’ll be a championship favorite, for sure.
- 0.1 Other WNBA Players to Keep an Eye On This Season
- 0.2 What Does 2023 Have in Store for Brittney Griner?
- 1 How the Sports World is Reacting to Brittney Griner Returning Home After a 10-Month Detainment in Russia
- 2 Brittney Griner Announces Her Return to the WNBA Next Season — Here Are Some of the Biggest Moments of Her Career So Far
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