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  • Karla Uriarte

‘I’m no stranger to hard times’: Brittney Griner gets emotional during media presser

PHOENIX — The WNBA star had to pause when speaking to media for the first time following a nearly 10-month incarceration in Russia on drug-related charges.

An event attended by over 100 people inside the lobby of the Footprint Center, home of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury. Griner’s wife, Cherelle, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs and members of the Phoenix Mercury Organization were amongst those in attendance. Griner expressed her gratitude to all media, family, the Phoenix Mercury organization, the WNBA and fans who brought exposure to get her home, including President Joe Biden. She mentioned her desire for the WNBA to receive the same level of coverage as her story did the previous year.

In a heartfelt interview, the Phoenix Mercury Center spoke of her concern for other Americans who are still being detained abroad and reflected on the horrible experience she had while in Russia. "I'm no stranger to hard times," Griner said about her resiliency during her time in prison. “You’re going to be faced with adversities throughout your life, this was a pretty big one. But I just kinda relied on my hard work, and getting through it.” “Just put your head down and just keep going, keep moving forward. You can never stand still and that was my thing,” she added.

Her mission is much more than to make a comeback on the court. Griner as well as the Phoenix Mercury will be joining forces with Bring Our Families Home Organization to help release those who have been wrongfully detained.

Griner said “it hurts” as she’s been released before other Americans who have unfortunately been detained longer. For someone who comes from a military family, citing her father’s service during the Vietnam War as a Marine, she reflected on how no one deserves to be in the conditions she was in. “I have that mind-set of, you know, no man left behind. No man, no woman, no one left behind,” Griner said. She added, “No one should be in those conditions, hands down.”

Griner has yet to continue transitioning from such a tough period of time, though despite the physical difficulties she had after being away from basketball for so long, Griner addressed what it felt like to be back with the Mercury and her ambitions for the next WNBA season.

“Getting back into it was hard, it’s still a process,” Griner said. “As an athlete you always want to be where you left off and I left off in the playoffs.” She was hopeful that she’d be back in no time. “I believe in me, I believe in what I can do. I bet on me, I have all the resources here to help me get to that point where I can play,” she added. It was a no-brainer that she wanted to be back in the WNBA.

The jokester had the crowd in laughs often. "I mean, who wouldn't want to play with a walking fossil?" Griner joked when asked about Diana Taurasi. She gave her credit for being a mentor to her and someone she looks up to. “I was really worried, actually, that she was going to retire on me while I was gone. That was killing me. I'm really thankful that she's still here.” At the end of the conference Griner thanked the entire crowd and led everyone outside the Footprint Center to unveil a mural that featured her face as well as 14 other Americans detained overseas and will continue to provide the support needed to release them.

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