WNBA star Brittney Griner broke down in tears during her first press conference since being released from a Russian prison, where she spent ten months on drug-related charges.
The 32-year-old Phoenix Mercury center gave a heartfelt interview and acknowledged the large crowd of reporters, expressing hope that the league receives the same coverage as her story did last year.
Griner shared that she would much rather go through the most grueling practices than ever go back to what she experienced in Russia.
She vowed never to play overseas again, unless it is for Team USA. She also cracked a few jokes, referring to her teammate, Diana Taurasi, as a “walking fossil” and sharing how she dunked on her wife when she first touched a basketball upon returning to the States.
When it came to her WNBA career, Griner said that getting back on the court was never in question, expressing confidence in herself and her abilities. She thanked the whole crowd and the WNBA and NBA communities for their support in bringing her home for good.
“Being in Russia was a tough time in my life. But I’m back and better than ever,” Griner shared, tears streaming down her face. “I never want to experience anything like that again. It’s made me appreciate the freedoms we have here in the U.S. even more.”
Griner detailed her experiences in prison, saying that it was a different world with different rules, and that it was a struggle to adapt to the lifestyle. “I’m grateful for everything that happened in my life, good and bad. It made me who I am today,” she added.
Despite the challenges she faced, Griner remains a fierce competitor and is excited to get back on the court. “I can’t wait to play basketball again. That’s where I feel most at home,” she said.
Griner’s time in Russia brought attention to the harsh conditions that athletes can face while playing overseas. The WNBA has been working to improve conditions for its players, and Griner’s experience has reinforced the importance of these efforts.
“I hope that my experience can help make a difference for players in the future,” Griner said. “I want to use my voice to make positive changes in the world, both on and off the court.”