Brittney Griner is doing ‘remarkably well’ since release from Russia, says WNBA commissioner

Brittney Griner wears a purple Phoenix Mercury basketball uniform as she holds a white and orange basketball in her hands

Brittney Griner is doing “remarkably well” since the basketball star was released from Russian detainment, according to WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert. 

Griner was held for 10 months in Russia after being arrested in February 2022 and eventually sentenced to nine years on drug charges. The Phoenix Mercury center was released from a Russian penal colony and returned to the US after a prisoner exchange in December.

One year after Griner was detained in Russia and a few months after her release, Engelbert said she was able to meet with Griner for the first time. She confirmed the WNBA All-Star is “doing remarkably well” to CNN This Morning.

“I met with her in Phoenix,” Engelbert said. “Britney is doing remarkably well, and she’s starting to train. We’re so excited to have her back in the league after an awful ordeal.”

Engelbert added the WNBA wanted to give Griner some space after her return from Russia before meeting again to discuss her plans for the future. 

“We wanted to give her the holidays to meet with family and friends,” Engelbert said. 

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“Just a remarkable experience. She has a remarkable story about what she went through, but we’re looking forward to having her back in the [WNBA].”

Engelbert confirmed Griner is looking to play basketball again and believed she’ll return to play with Phoenix Mercury, the team she’s been with since 2013. 

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Brittney Griner is making her return to basketball in the upcoming season and has signed a one-year deal with Phoenix Mercury, a source told ESPN

Griner last played for Phoenix Mercury in 2021, and the team made it all the way to the WNBA Finals before Phoenix Mercury lost to the Chicago Sky. 

The two-time Olympic gold medallist missed the 2022 WNBA season while in detention in Russia. 

Griner, who also played pro basketball in Russia, was arrested in February 2022 at an airport outside Moscow after authorities said they found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage. 

The eight-time WNBA All-Star was subsequently convicted on drug smuggling charges and later transferred to a Russian penal colony. 

Griner was released in December in a prisoner swap in exchange for arms dealer Viktor Bout. The deal was arranged after months of discussions between the Biden administration and the Russian government amid high tension after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

After her release, Brittney Griner released a heartfelt statement on Instagram, thanking fans for their support. 

“The last 10 months have been a battle at every turn. I dug deep to keep my faith and it was the love from so many of you that helped keep me going. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone for your help,” she wrote. 

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Brittney Griner wears a purple top as she shoots a white and orange basketball during a WNBA game warm-up
Brittney Griner has reportedly signed a one-year contract to play with the Phoenix Mercury. (Getty)

Griner also confirmed in the statement that she intended to “play basketball for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury” in the upcoming season. In doing so, she said she looked forward to “being able to say ‘thank you’ to those of you who advocated, wrote and posted for [her] in person soon”. 

US representative Greg Stanton tweeted that he recently was able to meet with Griner and speak with the WNBA star. 

The Democrat posted two photos – one in which he posed with Griner and another of him standing on a basketball court as Griner did a jump shot. Stanton said she was working out “in preparation for the upcoming Phoenix Mercury season”. 

“She and Cherelle [Griner] are ecstatic to be home in Phoenix and made clear their commitment to help all wrongfully detained Americans around the globe,” Stanton added. 

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