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Brittney Griner shows off her skills in photoshoot ahead of WNBA return with the Phoenix Mercury… just two months on from her release from Russian penal colony

Brittney Griner showed off in a photoshoot with the Phoenix Mercury ahead of her on-court return to the WNBA franchise. 

Griner has recently been enjoying her freedom, seen at the Super Bowl with wife, Cherelle, a week prior to reports of her return to the Mercury on a one-year deal. 

The deal was confirmed Tuesday by Phoenix, which was of great pride to general manager Jim Pitman.

‘It’s a great day for all of us to announce that Brittney Griner has officially signed to play for the Mercury in 2023,’ Pitman said.

‘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.’

‘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.’ 

Griner has not played for the Mercury since 2021, when she led Phoenix to the WNBA Finals before losing to the Chicago Sky. Regardless, Griner was nearly unstoppable that season, averaging 20.5 points, 1.9 blocks, 2.7 assists, and career-highs with 9.5 rebounds per game

Griner has not played for the Mercury since 2021, when she led Phoenix to the WNBA Finals before losing to the Chicago Sky. Regardless, Griner was nearly unstoppable that season, averaging 20.5 points, 1.9 blocks, 2.7 assists, and career-highs with 9.5 rebounds per game

The 32-year-old has not played for the Phoenix franchise since 2021, when she led them to the WNBA Finals before losing to the Chicago Sky.

In the interim, Griner was detained in Russia for a 10-month period. She was released from a Russian penal colony on December 8 after President Biden sanctioned an exchange, giving convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout back to Russia. 

The deal has drawn criticism from Republicans, who were upset that Biden let ‘The Merchant of Death’ go, while also leaving detained marine, Paul Whelan – who was arrested nearly four years ago – behind. 

Griner, who had played professionally in Russia since 2014, was returning to the country in February when she was stopped at the Moscow airport with what authorities claimed to be vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. 

She had been assigned to a penal colony in Mordovia, a region known for its brutal prison system, until the Biden administration was able to secure her release. 

Ultimately Griner was convicted in August and sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony. A subsequent appeal was denied in October. 

The 6-foot-9 Griner is an eight-time All-Star in the US and one of only 11 players to win an Olympic gold medal, FIBA World Cup gold medal, WNBA title, and an NCAA title, which she captured at Baylor in 2012. 

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Griner was terrific in her most previous season, averaging 20.5 points, 1.9 blocks, 2.7 assists, and career-highs with 9.5 rebounds per game. 

The 32-year-old was detained in Russia for 10 months prior to her release in a prison swap

The 32-year-old was detained in Russia for 10 months prior to her release in a prison swap

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