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Griner’s WNBA comeback mesmerizes record-breaking cable audience

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Brittney Griner.
Brittney Griner. Photo/The Sentinel-Record
  • Brittney Griner’s effect in her first WNBA match with Phoenix Mercury on Monday resulted in 683,000 fans watching
  • Phoenix Mercury played against Spark
  • The Phoenix Mercury player took on Sparks in Los Angeles

The Brittney Griner effect in her first WNBA match with Phoenix Mercury on Monday resulted in 683,000 fans watching the game against Spark on ESPN platforms.

The Phoenix Mercury player took on Sparks in Los Angeles and the NBA world was in utter awe.

Mercury and Sparks’ WNBA season opener attracted 683,000 viewers on ESPN which is an 11-year high for the network on WNBA coverage.

Additionally, Griner’s formal homecoming from her detention in Russia garnered more cable television viewers than any other WNBA game in almost 25 years.

ESPN has the WNBA rights through the 2025 season at a time when interest in the league is at an all-time high, ESPN has the WNBA rights through the 2025 season.

Brittney Griner

Brittney Griner. Photo/Marca

Griner is playing at a very good level despite missing the entire 2022 campaign due to her 10-month imprisonment in Russia. She signed a one-year deal with Mercury and all eyes are on her in the quest to set the team on a victory path.

In two games so far, Griner averaged 22.5 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 blocks while making 73 per cent of her field goal attempts. She will play once more on Thursday when Phoenix Mercury plays Minnesota Lynx.

Griner became an international sensation following her arrest in February 2022 by Russian authorities.

A search on her items at a Moscow airport where vape cartridges with hashish oil were confiscated leading to months of detention and 10-year imprisonment.

In her defence, she told the court that medical cannabis was prescribed in the United States to ease pain from longstanding injuries.

However, she packed in a hurry and forgot to leave it behind when travelling to Russia to play in the off-season.

She served 10 months in jail before the US government brokered a prisoner swap deal that secured her freedom. The Joe Biden-led government swapped gave up Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who was incarcerated in the US.

Following her 10 months imprisonment in a Russian jail, Griner says she is now done playing abroad unless it’s with a US national team.

“I’m never going overseas to play again unless it’s to represent my country,” she said in an April interview. “The whole reason a lot of us go over is the pay gap … to support our families, to support ourselves.”

In the Russian league, Griner earned $1 million every season while back home, she earned less than $250,000 per season.

Brittney Griner

Brittney Griner. Photo/Sky Sports

Griner played for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Yekaterinburg during the offseason but with her harrowing Russian imprisonment, she has given up.

Her arrest and subsequent imprisonment changed her outlook on life and she says that she now knows how to handle challenges better in life.

“In a message to her fans, she told them to work through hard times in life saying that such moments are inevitable in life. You find a way to grind it out, put your head down and just keep going and keep going forward. You can never stand still,” she said.

Teresa is a journalist with years of experience in creating web content. She is a wanderlust at heart, but an outgoing sports writer with focus on tennis, athletics, football, motorsports and NBA.

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