On Friday, Brittney Griner played her first WNBA game for the Mercury has since returned to the United States after being held in a Russian prison for most of the past year. Although the veteran forward enjoyed a strong performance, the highlight for him may have come before tipoff.
Griner explained that he felt many emotions while hearing the national anthem before the preseason game in a way that he had not felt before his experience in Russia.
“Hearing the national anthem, it really hit home differently,” Griner said, via CNN. “It’s like when you go to the Olympics, you’re sitting there, about to have gold around your neck, the flags are going up and the anthem is playing, it’s just a different hit. … Being here today … means a lot.”
In December, Griner was released from a Russian prison after serving 10 months for allegedly bringing cannabis oil to an airport. He was sentenced to nine years in prison before being part of a prisoner exchange to bring him back to the United States.
Griner is out for the entirety of the 2022 WNBA season. While he said he will no longer play overseas, he will remain part of the Olympic team, as he has done twice before.
The Mercury are scheduled to open the regular season against Sparks in Los Angeles on Friday night.