WNBA player Brittney Griner has been named the Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year in her first season with the Phoenix Mercury following her detainment in a Russian prison.
According to Bleacher Report, Griner received the coveted honor on Sept. 12 alongside Minnesota Lynx forward Napheesa Collier, capping off an impressive season. Though the Phoenix Mercury were ranked 6th in the West at the end of her comeback season, Griner’s supreme athleticism remained on full display.
The eight-time All-Star player averaged 17.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks, while shooting 56.2% from the field for the Mercury. Phoenix made Griner the No.1 draft pick in 2013 and has fully reaped the benefit of having 10 straight off-seasons with the center leading the way alongside Skylar Diggins-Smith, Diana Taurasi, and Sophie Cunningham.
This season is the first since drafting Griner in which the Mercury failed to reach the playoffs; however, the city of Phoenix spent the year celebrating their leader.
As previously reported, over 14,000 fans poured into the Footprint Center to watch the 32-year-old player’s return to basketball earlier this year. Griner—who spent more than two years away from the game due to her unlawful detainment in a Russian prison for nearly 10 months—struggled to contain her emotions that night. “Part of the process of healing is letting it out. I got choked up a little bit, and I tried to hide it,” she said at the time. Concerns about whether she’d be able to play at “game speed” were quickly dimmed as Griner notched 27 points on the night.
The WNBA started announcing its own highest honors for the season on Wednesday, Sept. 13, concluding with the coveted season MVP award on Sept. 26. For now, Griner is joined by 2023 first overall pick Aliyah Boston as well as Las Vegas Aces player Alysha Clark on the list of athletes honored by the AP. In a surprising move, the Associated Press named the New York Liberty’s Breanna Stewart its Player of The Year, overlooking the Aces’ A’ja Wilson for the second time in consecutive seasons. Wilson was, however, named the AP Defensive Player of the Year.