American Brittney Griner played for the first time since being released from prison in Russia in a pre-season game for Phoenix Mercury on Friday.
She was thrown onto the pitch and played for 17 minutes, scoring with a two-point shot in the opening minute.
“I didn’t think I would be sitting here,” she said afterwards.
“I didn’t expect to play basketball so quickly.”
In total, Griner, the two-time Olympic champion and one of the best and hottest basketball players in the world, scored 10 points with three rebounds in the 90-71 loss to the Los Angeles Sparks.
It was his first game for Mercury since 2021.
“I didn’t know how it was going to be, getting back into it,” she said. “I’m grateful to be here, for sure.
“It feels good, you feel really appreciated. But I can’t wait for the day when it will be a bit like basketball.”
Griner, who played in the Russian Premier League, was arrested at a Moscow airport in February 2022 for possession of cannabis oil. She pleaded guilty to the charges, was sentenced to nine years in prison and sent to a penal colony.
In total, she spent 10 months in Russian custody before the US government – under pressure from activists, politicians and Griner insiders – struck a deal with Russia to release her in exchange for the notorious drug dealer. Russian weapons Viktor Bout.
She has since campaigned for more American prisoners to be freed and has vowed to return for the Mercury this season.
They begin their regular season on the road in Los Angeles against the Sparks on May 19.