Brittney Griner receives warm welcome back, scores on 1st possession in home return

May 21, 2023, 2:19 PM | Updated: 3:59 pm

Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury is introduced before the WNBA game against the Chicago S...

Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury is introduced before the WNBA game against the Chicago Sky at Footprint Center on May 21, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

For the first time since 2021, Brittney Griner took the court for the Mercury in Phoenix at their home opener on Sunday afternoon.

Skylar Grey’s renowned chorus of “Coming Home” echoed at Footprint Center as Griner was reintroduced to the Valley fans after her nearly 10-month detainment in Russia last year.

She threw up an “X” with her arms as she got quite the ovation from the crowd, the X-Factor.

Griner received some “welcome backs” on the court as the Mercury were set to tip off against the Chicago Sky.

She did not take long to get going, scoring through contact on the first possession of the game after winning the opening tip. The center backed down Chicago’s Elizabeth Williams, used footwork to create separation and floated the ball in.

Griner made the ensuing free throw and finished the first half with nine points, five rebounds and three blocks.

The center finished the game with 27 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.

She reached No. 3 on the WNBA’s all-time blocks list in the first half, passing Sylvia Fowles with 722.

The seven-time all-star told ESPN’s Holly Rowe during an in-game interview that she held back tears during the pregame introductions.

Many fans wore Griner’s 42 jersey and some waved small black towels with “BG” on the front. One young fan held a sign that said “We (heart) BG. Welcome home!”

During warmups, Griner shared hugs with her teammates, Sky players and Chicago coach James Wade, who had coached her overseas. Just as warmups were winding down, Mercury guard Sophie Cunningham grabbed a microphone near midcourt and addressed the crowd.

“Last year, all we wanted was to get BG home. We did that and we’re all together now,” Cunningham said, drawing roars from the crowd.

Just before player introductions, a poet paid tribute to Griner while being surrounded by the Mercury’s dancers.

The last time Griner played at Footprint Center came during the 2021 WNBA Finals when she dropped 29 points in a Game 2 victory over the Sky.

She made her regular season return to the court on Friday in Los Angeles against the Sparks and had 18 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots.

The Mercury dropped Sunday’s home opener 75-69.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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