Brittney Griner released her first statement since arriving back in America on Friday via Instagram, and among thank yous to the many people who worked to see her return home, the eight-time All-Star committed to playing in the WNBA again in 2023.
"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."
This is huge news for both the league and its fans, but most importantly for Griner, who spent the last 10 months wrongfully detained in Russia. On Saturday, it was reported that she dunked a basketball for the first time since coming home.
The minor details were of lesser importance then, but on Friday, ESPN's Alexa Philippou revealed that the 2022 season counted as a year of service for Griner.
That's important in that Griner is now technically a free agent until January 15. But she's already shut down rumors in explicitly stating she'll remain in Phoenix, where she's played her entire career.
Griner and Taurasi are long-time friends and teammates, playing together for Griner's entire career in Phoenix, plus overseas in EuroLeague.
CNN's Abby Phillip reported that Taurasi, along with Mercury GM Jim Pitman and President Vince Kozar, suprised Griner on her plane headed out of San Antonio back home on Friday.
Those are both questions that are super tough for anyone to answer. Griner hasn't played basketball in 10 months, which is hard for any athlete to come back from, and the season starts in just over five months. In 2021, Griner finished runner-up in MVP votes, and Phoenix could conceivably be a playoff team if she can play anywhere near what we're used to.
Phoenix will have some adjustments to make, though. Namely, All-Star Skylar Diggins-Smith may miss the entire season as she's pregnant with her second child. Taurasi is also in her 19th season, and missed chunks of 2022 to injury. The Mercury will prioritize re-signing Griner in free agency first, but subsequent moves may be in line for the team to compete for a ring.
Regardless, Griner's physical and mental health are most important — and seeing her joy on a basketball court again will be fulfilling in itself.