Brittney Griner selected WNBA All-Star game for ninth time

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By Webdesk

The 32-year-old American player was arrested in Russia in February 2022 amid rising tensions over Ukraine.

Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner has been selected for the ninth time for the WNBA All-Star game, just over six months after her release from a Russian prison.

Griner, who had missed the entire last US basketball season behind bars in Russia, was named Sunday as the starter for the WNBA All-Star Game on July 15 in Las Vegas.

Last year, she was named an honorary All-Star by Commissioner Cathy Engelbert of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).

The 32-year-old LGBTQ pioneer was arrested in Russia in February 2022 for carrying cannabis oil in her luggage amid rising tensions over the war in Ukraine.

The administration of US President Joe Biden had said early on that she had been “unjustly detained”.

At the time of her arrest, Griner was playing for a professional team in Russia, as a number of WNBA players do in the offseason.

She was charged with possession of vape cartridges containing a small amount of cannabis oil and was sentenced to nine years in prison in August on drug charges.

Griner pleaded guilty to the charges but said she had no intention of breaking the law or using the banned substance in Russia.

She was eventually released as part of a deal that saw her traded to notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout – known as the “Death Merchant” – in December.

Bout, a 55-year-old former Soviet Army lieutenant colonel, was accused of arming rebel groups in some of the world’s bloodiest conflicts.

Griner made her first appearance in a WNBA game in 579 days when the Phoenix Mercury faced the Los Angeles Sparks in a season opener in California.

US Vice President Kamala Harris was one of the benefactors at the Arena in downtown Los Angeles when the WNBA superstar finally got back into action.

During preseason, Griner warned that she would need time to regain her full abilities after the 10 months she spent in Russian custody. But she has exceeded her own expectations and as of Sunday was ninth in the league in average points per game.

Griner had missed three games with a hip injury before returning in a 97-74 loss to Seattle on Saturday.

Griner is in her 10th WNBA season. She helped Phoenix to the 2014 national title and played for two U.S. Olympic gold medal teams.

She has averaged 19.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists and a league-best 2.4 blocks per game this season for a struggling Mercury, who is last in the Western Conference with two wins and 10 losses.

The center of the Mercury was chosen by fans, media and players for the All-Star game. Last season, all Griner players wore number 42 jerseys for the second half of the game played in Chicago.

Fan balloting accounts for 50 percent of the vote to determine starters for the game. WNBA players and a media panel account for 25 percent each. The players’ scores were calculated by averaging their weighted ranking of the three groups.

Two-time MVP A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces and 2018 MVP Breanna Stewart of the New York Liberty were named captains for the All-Star game next month.

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