On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced that he had reached an agreement with Russian officials to bring Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner back to the United States.
Griner was arrested at the Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow on Feb. 17 for possessing less than a gram of hashish oil, as the substance is illegal in Russia.
Griner was convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison back in August, but Biden was able to bring her back in a prison swap, with arms dealer and weapons smuggler Viktor Bout getting sent back to Russia.
According to Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens Griner was very social to the flight crew on her way home, taking the time to introduce herself to each of the members.
“I’ve been in prison for 10 months, listening to the Russians. I want to talk,” Griner stated, Carsten claimed during an interview with CNN (h/t) ESPN. “But first of all, who are these guys?”
Carstens then described how Griner approached the crew members:
“And she moved right past me and went to every member on that crew, looked them in the eyes, shook their hands and asked about them, got their names, making a personal connection with them. It was really amazing.”
Carstens also stated that during the 18-hour flight home, Griner spent 12 of those hours communicating.
“I was left with the impression this is an intelligent, passionate, compassionate, humble, interesting person, a patriotic person,” Carstens explained. “But above all, authentic. I hate the fact that I had to meet her in this manner, but I actually felt blessed having had a chance to get to know her.”
Griner’s arrest and conviction was one of the most widely discussed sports stories of 2022. Biden and U.S. officials had spent a while trying to bring Griner home, and the WNBA legend has been granted her freedom after a near-10-month wait.
Griner is one of the most accomplished basketball players of all time, and the future Hall of Famer’s return could greatly change the WNBA landscape next season. Griner led the Mercury to the WNBA Championship in 2014, and they reached the finals in 2021 before falling to the Chicago Sky in four games.
The Mercury greatly struggled without Grenier last season, finishing 15-21 on the year without the perennial All-Star. Grenier, a two-time scoring champion and eight-time WNBA blocks leader, has also been a star on the international stage for the U.S.
Griner led the United States to gold medals in the 2016 and 2020 Summer Olympics, and to championships at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup tournaments.WANT MORE FROM TOTALPROSPORTS? FOLLOW US ON GOOGLE NEWS.