Brittney Griner inks new deal with Phoenix Mercury after Russian imprisonment

WNBA star Brittney Griner.
(Image credit: Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

WNBA star Brittney Griner has signed a new contract to return to the Phoenix Mercury on a one-year deal, NBC News reported Tuesday.

The news was later confirmed by the Mercury in a press release, saying it was "a special day for all of us."

Griner, 32, has spent her entire WNBA career with the Mercury. She made international headlines when she was arrested in Russia in February 2022 after customs officers found a small amount of cannabis oil in her possession.

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She would end up being detained in Russia for 10 months as a result. NBC News noted that "Griner pleaded guilty at her trial in July but said she had no criminal intent," and told the Russian judge that the cannabis oil was used to treat chronic pain.

Despite this, Russia sentenced Griner to nine years in a penal colony. American officials consistently held that Griner was "wrongfully detained" and made continuous efforts to have her released.

Following a series of negotiations, Griner was released on Dec. 8 in a prisoner swap for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. In her first post on Instagram after returning to the United States, Griner wrote that "the last 10 months have been a battle at every turn," saying that she was "grateful to each person who advocated for me."

"And of course, a special thank you to President Biden, Vice President Harris, Secretary Blinken, and the entire Biden-Harris administration," Griner added.

Her return to basketball shouldn't come as much of a surprise, as Griner also said in her Instagram post that she intended to play for the Mercury in 2023. Mercury president Vince Kozar had previously told ESPN, "We'll follow her lead, we'll do whatever she wants."

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