Brittney Griner stars with 19 points as Phoenix Mercury clinch their first win of the WNBA season with 90-81 victory over Minnesota Lynx

Griner - a 7-time All-Star - continues to provide a boost in ratings for the WNBAShe returned to US soil in December after being detained in Russia in February provides all the latest international sports news 

Britney Griner starred in the Phoenix Mercury’s first win of the new WNBA season, as the center, who was detained in a Russian prison labor camp for 10 months, scored 19 points in a 90-81 win over the Minnesota Lynx.

On Thursday, the 32-year-old was four points shy of Phoenix’s top scorer of the night – guard Diane Taurasi. She also put up eight rebounds and one assist.

Griner – a seven-time All-Star – continues to provide a ratings boost for the league, six months after returning to US soil following her imprisonment in Russia for being in possession of cannabis oil at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport in February, 2022.

She looked in top form in Sunday’s 75-69 loss to the Chicago Sky by contributing 27 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots. She also was bombarded with emotions while being greeted warmly in her first home game since the 2021 season.

‘It was really good,’ Griner said afterward. ‘Part of the process of healing is just kind of letting it out. So, yeah, I got choked up a little bit.’

The wrap around pass to the finish ‍

— Phoenix Mercury (@PhoenixMercury) May 26, 2023

Brittney Griner's focus was razor sharp on Thursday as she got Phoenix its first win of the year

Brittney Griner’s focus was razor sharp on Thursday as she got Phoenix its first win of the year

The 32-year-old center put up 19 points in a 90-81 win over the Minnesota Lynx on Thursday

The 32-year-old center put up 19 points in a 90-81 win over the Minnesota Lynx on Thursday

In Phoenix’s season opener against the LA Sparks, Griner, who was at this year’s Met Gala and the White House earlier in May, scored 18 points.

She also had six rebounds and two assists in the Mercury’s 91-74 loss on May 19.

The basketball star was often outspoken for social justice in 2020 and didn’t take the court during the pregame anthem. But nearly a year behind bars in Russia changed her.

‘I was literally in a cage and could not stand the way I wanted to,’ she said after the Mercury’s first loss of the season against the Spark.

‘Just being able to hear my national anthem and see my flag, I definitely want to stand.’

Griner was outspoken for social justice in 2020 and didn't take the court during the pregame anthem. But nearly a year behind bars in Russia changed her

Griner was outspoken for social justice in 2020 and didn’t take the court during the pregame anthem. But nearly a year behind bars in Russia changed her

Griner and her wife, Cherelle Griner, attend The 2023 Met Gala in New York City on May 1, 2023

Griner and her wife, Cherelle Griner, attend The 2023 Met Gala in New York City on May 1, 2023

Before the Mercury’s first game of the 2023 season, Griner hugged Vice President Kamala Harris and first gentleman Doug Emhoff as they left the court after Harris was presented with a No. 49 Sparks jersey.

Earlier, Harris posed for photos in the Mercury’s locker room.

Ahead of Thursday night’s win against the Lynx, Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard revealed how amazed she was with how Griner is dealing with everything after her well-publicized ordeal.

‘I just continue to be impressed with B.G.,’ Nygaard said. ‘B.G. is somebody that can handle so many things, clearly, that many people could not handle.

‘So, I was just really happy to have her back on the court and just to feel the love from all of our fans.’

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