Brittney Griner’s former coaches and teammates as well as a host of elite athletes on Thursday celebrated the US basketball star’s release from a Russian prison after 10 months in captivity. .
Griner, arrested in February on drug charges, is Traded for arms dealer Viktor Bout in a prisoner swap taken at an airport in Abu Dhabi.
Supporters of the 32-year-old WNBA and Olympic superstar center expressed joy and relief.
“I was shocked. I cried. Honestly, I cried,” said Dawn Staley, who coached Griner last year on the US team that won the gold medal in Tokyo. We all prayed.
“My prayers will continue for her and her family’s strength, so that she can return to the Brittney Griner we once knew her.”
Griner is an eight-time WNBA All-Star and two-time scoring champion who led the Phoenix Mercury to the league title in 2014.
“Miracle, fortunately, days in custody have ended at 294 and our friend our sister is returning home to where she belongs,” Mercury and the NBA Phoenix Suns said. in a joint statement.
“The feelings for our organization, as well as for our fans and so many people around the world, are emotions of joy, deep gratitude, grief for this time. lost time and sincere hope for all the families still waiting for their loved ones to return.
“BG’s strength in this process, her unwavering belief that solutions will come and the hope she shows every day is what makes us all believe this day will come.”
NBA stars Chris Paul, Trae Young and Kyrie Irving were among those who tweeted their joy at Griner’s release.
Career future ‘in her court’
Welcome home BG!
Thank you for illustrating what the true Warrior spirit looks like. You are forever loved by so many people unconditionally. 🤞🏾♾
– Helà (@KyrieIrving) December 8, 2022
“Thank you for showing what a real Warrior looks like,” Irving tweeted. “You will forever be unconditionally loved by so many people.”
Brianna Turner, a Griner teammate with Mercury, tweeted: “BEST NEWS EVER. Happy for BG just in time for the holidays.”
Kim Mulkey, who coached Griner to the 2012 US collegiate crown at Baylor University, told ESPN: “Brittney is on her way home, where she belongs. Our prayers remain with her and her family as they recover and heal together.”
Australian Sandy Brondello, the New York Liberty coach who coached Griner for eight seasons with the Mercury, cried when he heard the news.
She told MSNBC: “There were a lot of tears but they were tears of joy. “It will be a special moment when we get to meet her. It will be a very long hug.”
Brondello isn’t sure if she’ll be able to watch Griner again.
“I think right now BG needs to rest, recover and be with her wife and family,” she said.
“I think it was at her court. I’d love to see her play again but if she doesn’t play then that shouldn’t be a problem because she needs to take care of herself.”
‘Brave and determination’
The USA basketball team praised Griner for “her courage and determination over the past nearly 300 days” and added: “We look forward to seeing Brittney again when the time is right.”
Brondello said she can’t see American players playing for Russian teams during the off-season WNBA season for extra money.
“You would hope it would (stop),” she said. “I don’t think Americans will go back to Russia to play and they shouldn’t.”
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert called it a “wonderful day” and said the federation would “hope BG has its time and space and recovers from this whole terrible ordeal.
“I can’t tell you how much this means for the entire WNBA community to get her home safely. This is really emotional. We are really looking forward to her return and hearing her voice.”
Women’s tennis legend Billie Jean King thanked Biden and “everyone who worked hard to secure her freedom” while WNBA Player of the Year A’ja Wilson, an Olympic teammate of Griner’s , tweeted: “God is good.”
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