After spending 294 days detained in Russia and missing the entire WNBA 2022 season, Brittney Griner is officially returning with the Phoenix Mercury on a one year contract, the team announced on Tuesday.
"It's a great day for all of us to announce that Brittney Griner has officially signed to play for the Mercury in 2023. 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 General Manager Jim Pitman said in a statement.
"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 news you’ve all been waiting for! BG will be back in a Phoenix Mercury jersey this season 💜— Phoenix Mercury (@PhoenixMercury) February 21, 2023
Griner has been with the team since she was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft. Since then, the 6-foot-9 center has been named to the WNBA's Top 25 Players of All Time list and is has been selected to the All-Star game eight times -- including being an honorary selection in 2022.
The 32-year-old was a free agent but had already announced her intentions to return to the Mercury in December, when she made her first public statement since returning to the United States.
"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," Griner wrote on Instagram.
Griner was detained at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow on Feb. 17, 2022 when the Russian Federal Customs Service discovered vape cartridges containing marijuana concentrate in her luggage. She was originally sentenced to nine years in prison, but was able to return to the United States after the Biden administration negotiated a prisoner swap that took place on Dec. 8.
"I do not think any of us will forget where we were on Dec. 8 when we heard BG was coming home or on Dec. 15 when she announced she intended not only to play basketball in 2023 but that it would be for the Mercury." said Mercury President of Business Operations Vince Kozar in a statement.
"And I know 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."