Brittney Griner signs one-year WNBA deal following Russia imprisonment

Phoenix, Arizona - Brittney Griner will return to the WNBA for the 2023 basketball season after reportedly signing a one-year deal with the Phoenix Mercury following a 10-month detainment in Russia.

Brittney Griner has reportedly signed a one-year deal with the Phoenix Mercury after being released from a Russian prison.
Brittney Griner has reportedly signed a one-year deal with the Phoenix Mercury after being released from a Russian prison.  © Collage: EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA / POOL / AFP / Christian Petersen / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Griner was arrested at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport in February 2022 for bringing under a gram of cannabis oil into Russia in vape cartridges.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist said she made an "honest mistake", with her lawyers arguing she was using the cannabis for medicinal purposes and was unaware of its illegal status in Russia.

She was subsequently sentenced to nine years in jail for drug possession and drug smuggling with criminal intent, but was released in December in a prisoner exchange that saw convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout return to Russia.

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Griner stated she planned to play for the Mercury in 2023 following her return to the United States, and the team has reportedly agreed to a deal for the eight-time WNBA All-Star to play in the upcoming season.

Griner was drafted first overall by the Mercury in 2013, going on to win the 2014 WNBA championship by sweeping the Chicago Sky in the finals.

Her last game for the team before her imprisonment also came against the Sky in a 2021 WNBA finals defeat after one of the best seasons of her career, during which she averaged 20.5 points, 1.9 blocks and 9.5 rebounds per game.

Griner will look to help the Mercury bounce back after suffering a first-round exit in the WNBA Playoffs in August, with the team set to begin their 2023 campaign against the Los Angeles Sparks on May 19.

Cover photo: Collage: EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA / POOL / AFP / Christian Petersen / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

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