American Brittney Griner played for the first time since being released from prison in Russia in a preseason game for the Phoenix Mercury on Friday.
They brought her onto the court and she played for 17 minutes, scoring on a two-point shot in the first minute.
“I didn’t think I’d be sitting here,” she said afterwards.
“I didn’t think I would be playing basketball that fast.”
All told, Griner, a two-time Olympic champion and one of the best and most accomplished basketball players in the world, scored 10 points with three rebounds in a 90-71 loss to the Los Angeles Sparks.
It was his first game for the Mercury since 2021.
“I didn’t know how it was going to go, to do it again,” he said. “I’m grateful to be here, that’s for sure.
“It feels good, you definitely feel appreciated. But I can’t wait for the day when it’s like just basketball.”
Griner, who was playing in the Russian Premier League, was arrested at a Moscow airport in February 2022 for possession of cannabis oil. She pleaded guilty to the charges, she was sentenced to nine years in prison and sent to a penal colony.
In total, she spent 10 months in Russian custody before the US government, under pressure from activists, politicians and people close to Griner, struck a deal with Russia to release her in exchange for notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor. Bout.
Since then, he has campaigned for other American prisoners to be released and vowed to return for the Mercury this season.
They begin their regular season on the road in Los Angeles against the Sparks on May 19.