Brittney Griner is preparing for her first WNBA season since 2021, and it’s an emotional rollercoaster. The basketball star got teary-eyed when speaking with the media during her press conference on Thursday.
Marking Griner’s first time publically addressing the media since returning from a Russian prison in December, the 32-year-old Phoenix Mercury center opened the press conference by thanking the media for its support during her detainment.
The question and answer session began with a reporter welcoming Griner home.
The two shared a touching moment as the reporter got choked up, asking Griner how she was resilient through the difficult time.
She gathered her thoughts and answered the question.
“I’m no stranger to hard times,” she said. Then, failing to hide her emotions, Griner tearfully responded, “See, you cried and made me cry.”
She pulled herself together and gave a clear answer indicative of someone who overcame a challenging situation.
“Just digging deep, honestly,” she said. “You’re gonna be faced with adversities throughout your life. This was a pretty big one. But I just, kind of, relied on my hard work getting through it. I know this sounds so small, but dying in practice and just hard workouts—you find a way to just grind it out, just put your head down and keep going.”
She ended the heartfelt statement with, “Keep moving forward. You can never stand still.”
Brittney Griner held back tears while speaking to reporters ahead of her basketball return with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury. Griner, who spent 10 months detained in Russia, also sent a message to Americans Paul Whelan & Evan Gershkovich, who are both detained abroad. pic.twitter.com/PSTmfTTnAv
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Griner told another reporter how much seeing the “Free BG” campaign meant to her during her imprisonment.
“It gave me a little bit of hope, which is a hard thing to have,” she said. “It’s also a dangerous thing to have because when it doesn’t work, it’s so crushing.”
Later, the seven-time All-Star detailed what helped her overcome the times when she lost hope.
“When I did lose my hope, looking at photos of my family, that brought my hope back,” she said. “Just being able to see their faces, that did it for me. In a moment where you want to give up, you look at the photos, and it brings you back. You know what you’re waiting on—you’re waiting to be back with your family, with your loved ones in a safe place.”
Griner’s high-profile arrest happened as she entered Moscow to play basketball for the Russian Premier League. Before her detainment, she played for the country during her off-season.
When asked if the need to play overseas was a “need or a want,” Griner was clear she would no longer venture out of the country for playing opportunities.
“I’m never going overseas to play again unless I’m representing my country at the Olympics,” she quickly said.
She admitted many WNBA players go overseas because of the pay gap they experience.
“I don’t knock any other player who wants to go overseas and make a little extra money.”
Griner added she hopes the exposure of her story causes the league to grow to where players do not have to supplement income by participating in foreign teams.
While the tone of the press conference was gratitude for the continuous support, Griner was clear about being ready to get back on the court. The athlete revealed some apprehensions about returning to the court so early, but those were quickly gone.
She is ready to return to playing basketball, which she calls her “sanctuary.”
She is focused on getting back into playing form and taking it all in.
“You know, I’ve said it before, I believe in me. believe in what I can do.”