|No. 42 – Phoenix Mercury|
|Born||October 18, 1990|
Houston, Texas, U.S.
|Listed height||6 ft 9 in (206 cm)|
|Listed weight||205 lb (93 kg)|
|High school||Nimitz (Houston, Texas)|
|WNBA draft||2013 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1st overall|
|Selected by the Phoenix Mercury|
|2013–2014||Zhejiang Golden Bulls|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Stats at WNBA.com|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
Brittney Yevette Griner (born October 18, 1990) is an American professional basketball player for the Phoenix Mercury of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) currently imprisoned in Russia. She played college basketball for the Baylor Lady Bears in Waco, Texas. She is the only NCAA basketball player to both score 2,000 points and block 500 shots. In 2012, the three-time All-American was named the AP Player of the Year and the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. Griner is one of 11 women to receive an Olympic gold medal, an NCAA championship, a FIBA World Cup gold medal and a WNBA championship.
In 2009, Griner was named the nation's No. 1 high school women's basketball player by Rivals.com. She was selected to the 2009 Phoenix Mercury All-American basketball team. In 2012, she received the Best Female Athlete ESPY Award. In 2013, Griner signed an endorsement deal with Nike. Standing 6 ft 9 in (206 cm) tall, Griner wears a men's U.S. size 17 shoe and has an arm span of 87.5 in (222 cm).
Griner was on the United States women's Olympic team in 2016, and led them to victory at the Rio Olympics. In 2020, Griner protested the Star Spangled Banner and stated she would not be on the court while the national anthem was played during game openers. Griner was named to the United States women's national team for the 2020 Olympics, (held in 2021 in Tokyo, Japan), where she won her second gold medal.
In February 2022, Griner was detained by Russian customs after cartridges containing hashish oil were found in her luggage, and later arrested on smuggling charges. She had been entering Russia to play with the Russian Premier League during the WNBA offseason. Her trial began on July 1, and she pleaded guilty to the charges. On August 4, she was sentenced to nine years in prison. US officials have stated that she is "wrongfully detained." Griner's family is part of the Bring Our Families Home campaign that advocates for the immediate release of wrongfully-held detainees. In November of 2022 Griner was transferred to the Russian penal colony IK-2.
Griner was born October 18, 1990 in Houston, the daughter of Raymond Griner, a Harris County deputy sheriff and two-tour Vietnam War veteran, and Sandra Griner. She has three older siblings, D, Shkera and Pier.
Griner attended Nimitz High School in Houston. In addition to lettering in basketball throughout high school, she played varsity volleyball as a freshman. Starting in her sophomore year, Griner practiced with the boys' basketball team, and worked with a Nimitz football coach to develop her leg strength in preparation for learning to dunk. During her junior season, a YouTube video featuring her dunks was watched more than 6.6 million times, leading to a meeting with Shaquille O'Neal.
During her senior year, Griner led the Nimitz Cougars to the Texas 5A girls basketball state championship game, where Nimitz lost 52–43 to Mansfield Summit High School. Griner dunked 52 times in 32 games as a senior, setting a single-game record of seven dunks against Aldine High School. Houston mayor Bill White declared May 7, 2009, Brittney Griner Day. On November 11, 2008, she recorded 25 blocks in a game against Houston Alief Hastings, the most ever recorded by a female in a high school game in the U.S. In her 2008–09 season, she recorded 318 blocks, a single-season record.
Griner was named a WBCA All-American and participated in the 2009 WBCA High School All-America Game, leading the team by scoring 20 points and collecting 9 rebounds.
Griner played college basketball at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. As a freshman, Griner's 223 blocked shots set the all-time single-season record, establishing her as one of the greatest shot blockers in women's basketball history. On December 16, 2009, Griner recorded Baylor's first triple-double with 34 points, 13 rebounds, and Big 12 Conference record 11 blocked shots. In January 2010, she became only the seventh player to dunk during a women's college basketball game, and only the second woman to dunk twice in a single college game, making the second and third dunks of her college career in a lopsided 99–18 victory against Texas State University.
On March 3, 2010, Griner and Texas Tech player Jordan Barncastle were battling for position near the lane. As a foul was being called on Barncastle, Griner took two steps forward and threw a right-handed roundhouse punch which broke Barncastle's nose. Griner was then ejected from the game. Lady Bears coach Kim Mulkey then imposed another one-game suspension in addition to the one-game suspension mandated by NCAA rules.
Baylor entered the NCAA Tournament as a 4th seed, and knocked off top-seeded Tennessee in the Sweet 16. On March 22, Griner set an NCAA tournament record with 14 blocked shots in a 49–33 win against the Georgetown Hoyas. In the Elite Eight, Baylor defeated Duke 51–48, and Griner blocked 9 shots, totaling 35 for the tournament, a new NCAA Women's Tournament record. Duke's Alison Bales had held the previous record of 30 blocks in the 2006 NCAA Women's Tournament. Baylor reached the Final Four, before losing to eventual-champion UConn, 70–50. Griner was named an AP Second Team All-American.
As a sophomore, Griner received First Team All-American honors after averaging 23 points a game, including a career-high 40 points against Green Bay in the Sweet 16. Her sophomore season ended with a 48-56 loss to the eventual national champion and conference rival, Texas A&M University.
In her junior season, Griner averaged 23.2 points, 9.4 rebounds and 5 blocks per game. She blocked more shots than any other Division I women's team that season. Griner was named AP Player of the Year and The 2012 Premier Player of Women's College Basketball.
On April 3, 2012, Griner led Baylor with 26 points, 13 rebounds and 5 blocked shots to win the Division I Women's Basketball Championship, 80–61 over Notre Dame. Griner was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player. Baylor finished its undefeated season with 40 wins, the most in NCAA history.
After winning the championship on April 3, 2012, Griner decided to withdraw her candidacy for a roster spot on the 2012 U.S. Olympic women's basketball team. A month later Griner broke her wrist after jumping off her skateboard when she was going down a ramp.
Her college career came to an end in the 2013 NCAA women's basketball tournament when Baylor lost to the University of Louisville Cardinals in the Sweet 16.
|Total||Season high||Total||Season high||Total||Season high|
|2009–10||297||21||223||14||644||34||NCAA record for blocks in a season|
|Career||1,305||748||3,283||NCAA record for career blocks (men and women)|
The only international female players surpassing Griner's height have been the late Margo Dydek, at 7 feet 2 inches (2.18 m), Bernadett Határ, at 6 feet 10.5 inches (2.096 m), and Han Xu, at 6 feet 10 inches (2.08 m).
In the 2013 WNBA draft, the Phoenix Mercury selected Griner as the first overall pick. Griner would flourish in her rookie season, being named a WNBA all-star and would be a dominant defensive force in the league, averaging 3.0 blocks per game. In her debut on May 27, 2013, against Chicago Sky, Griner equaled the WNBA dunk record, recording two dunks to equal Candace Parker's career total. She thus became the third WNBA player to dunk and first to do so twice in one game. Despite the All-Star vote, Griner missed the 2013 WNBA All-Star Game with a right knee injury, she was replaced by Tina Thompson.
In April 2013, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he would consider drafting Griner to the NBA, and Griner expressed interest in the opportunity, but no offer to try out was extended by the team.
In the 2014 season, Griner's stats would improve, as she averaged 15.6 points per game, 8.0 rebounds per game and 3.7 blocks per game. On June 29, 2014, Griner had set a WNBA record with 11 blocks in a regular season game win against the Tulsa Shock, along with 21 points and 8 rebounds. On August 24, 2014, Griner became the first WNBA player to dunk in a playoff game when she helped the Mercury defeat the Los Angeles Sparks, 93–68, at Staples Center.
The 2014 season would be a historic season for the Mercury with the combination of Brittney Griner, Diana Taurasi and Candice Dupree as the dominant Big 3 to carry the team plus the arrival of new head coach Sandy Brondello, the Mercury finished 29–5, setting the WNBA record for most wins in a regular season. They made it all the way to the WNBA finals and swept the Chicago Sky 3 games to 0, to capture the Mercury's third championship in franchise history. During the series, Griner set WNBA finals records in game 1 for most blocks in a game (8) and most blocks in a quarter (5).
In the 2015 season, despite missing the first seven games due to a suspension stemming from her domestic violence case, Griner would have the most prolific defensive season in WNBA history, averaging a career high and WNBA record 4.0 blocks per game, surpassing Margo Dydek's record back in the 1998 season. Although the Mercury were playing without their all-star guard Diana Taurasi (who sat out the season to play overseas), the Mercury still made it to the playoffs. In the 2015 playoffs, Griner set a WNBA playoff record with 11 blocks (along with 18 points and 8 rebounds) in a game 1 victory against the Tulsa Shock, whom she also had 11 blocks against in a regular season game the year before. The Mercury advanced to the second round where they were swept by the Minnesota Lynx who won the championship that year.
In the 2016 season, with the return of Diana Taurasi, the Mercury had a more successful playoff run. En route to the playoffs, Griner averaged 14.5 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game and 3.1 blocks per game as the Mercury finished 16–18. During the season, Griner had recorded the sixth triple-double in WNBA history in a win against the Atlanta Dream where she had 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocks. With the WNBA's new playoff format in effect, the Mercury were the number 8 seed in the league as they faced the Indiana Fever in the first round.
The Mercury upset the Fever in the first round elimination game, as Griner had 18 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks. In the second round elimination game, the Mercury defeated the number 3 seeded New York Liberty, Griner had 22 points 10 rebounds and 4 blocks in the win. The Mercury advanced to the semifinals (the last round before the WNBA finals) against the championship defending Minnesota Lynx in a best-of-5 series but would get swept 3–0.
On March 12, 2017, Griner re-signed with the Mercury to a multi-year deal once her rookie contract expired. In 2017, Griner would have the best season of her career thus far. On June 7, 2017, Griner scored a career-high 38 points along with 9 rebounds in a 98–90 overtime win against the Indiana Fever. Griner would miss 8 games of the season and the 2017 WNBA All-Star Game due to an ankle and knee injury (replaced by Rebekkah Brunson), but finished off the season leading the league in scoring with 21.9 points per game and also lead the league in blocks for the fifth consecutive season.
The Mercury finished with an 18–16 record as the number 5 seed. In the first round elimination game, the Mercury defeated the Seattle Storm 79–69, advancing to the second round. Griner scored 23 points along with 11 rebounds and 3 blocks in the win. In the second round elimination game, the Mercury defeated the Connecticut Sun 88–83 and advanced to the semi-finals. Griner scored 26 points along with 9 rebounds in the win. In the semi-finals, the Mercury were eliminated by the Los Angeles Sparks in a 3-game sweep.
In 2018, Griner played all 34 games for the third time in her career. She was voted into the 2018 WNBA All-Star Game, making it her fifth all-star game appearance. On August 18, 2018, Griner scored a season-high 33 points along with 18 rebounds and 7 blocks in a 104–95 victory over the Atlanta Dream. This season was also her first season shooting from beyond the arc. Griner also led the league in blocks for the sixth consecutive year. The Mercury finished off the season 20–14 with the number 5 seed in the league.
In the first round elimination game, the Mercury defeated the Dallas Wings 101–83. Griner scored 17 points in the win. In the second round elimination game, the Mercury defeated the Connecticut Sun 96–86, advancing to the semi-finals for the third year in a row, they would face off against the Seattle Storm. Down 2–0, the Mercury came back to tie up the series 2–2. In game 5, the Mercury lost 94–84, ending their season.
In 2019, Griner would be voted into the 2019 WNBA All-Star Game, making it her sixth career all-star game appearance. On August 25, 2019, Griner scored a season-high 34 points in a 94–86 loss to the Chicago Sky. By the end of the season, Griner led the league in the scoring for the second time in her career and would continue to lead the league in blocks for the seventh straight season. The Mercury finished with a 15–19 record and the number 8 seed. In the first round elimination game, the Mercury were eliminated 105–76 by the Chicago Sky in the first round elimination game. Griner left in the second half of the game with a knee injury.
The 2020 season was delayed and shortened to 22 games in a bubble at IMG Academy due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After 12 games played, Griner left the bubble for undisclosed personal reasons. Without Griner, the Mercury finished 13–9 as the number 5 seed. They would make it as far as the second round where they lost to the Minnesota Lynx in the elimination game.
Griner plays overseas in the WNBA off-season. In the 2013–14 off-season, she played in China for the Zhejiang Golden Bulls of the WCBA where she signed a four-month contract for $600,000, which was 12 times the amount she made in her rookie season with the Mercury. In the 2014–15 and 2015–16 off-seasons, Griner played in Russia for UMMC Ekaterinburg with teammate Diana Taurasi, winning back-to-back championships.
In August 2016, Griner re-signed with UMMC Ekaterinburg for the 2016–17 off-season. In 2017, she re-signed once again with UMMC Ekaterinburg for the 2017–18 off-season, and in 2018, she returned to UMMC Ekaterinburg for a fifth stint in the 2018–19 off-season.
In September 2011, Griner spent two weeks playing under coach Geno Auriemma for the U.S. national team as part of its European training tour. Griner was the only college player in the group. She averaged 12.8 points and 7.3 rebounds a game with the U.S. team in Europe.
Griner was the sole player still playing in college on the 2012 U.S. Olympic women's basketball team finalists roster. Excluding Griner, the average age on the finalists roster was approximately 30 years, while Griner was 22 years old at the time of the Olympics. Griner decided in April 2012 not to participate in the 2012 Olympics due to family illness and her school schedule.
In 2016, she played for the U.S. Olympic women's basketball team at the Summer Olympics and earned her first Olympic gold medal as they beat Spain 101–72 in the final, becoming one of 11 players who have earned an Olympic gold medal, FIBA World Cup gold medal, WNBA title, and NCAA title, joining Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Tamika Catchings, Cynthia Cooper, Asjha Jones, Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart, Sheryl Swoopes, Diana Taurasi, and Kara Wolters on the list.
Griner was selected for her second Olympics in 2021, going undefeated and winning the gold medal as part of Team USA.
Along with being selected as the number one high school player in the country by Rivals.com, Griner was featured on the cover of ESPN's Rise magazine, and was selected by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association as the 2009 State Farm/WBCA High School Player of the Year. Griner also won the 2013 ESPY Award for best female college athlete. She was the 2012 winner of the Honda Sports Award for basketball and the overall Honda-Broderick Cup winner for all sports.
She was the 2012 recipient of the Wade Trophy, presented to the best female NCAA Division I basketball player who embodies the "Spirit of Margaret Wade." She was the winner of the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award, in 2012, and again in 2013. The award is given by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association to the nation's top Division I women's player.
Among other accolades, Griner is credited with bringing the women's game more attention due to her ability to dunk. She holds the NCAA record for dunks in a career with 18 total dunks. She passed Candace Parker as the all-time NCAA women's dunks leader.
In 2014, Griner was included as part of the Advocate's annual "40 under 40" list.
She was also named one of ESPNW's Impact 25 in 2014.
In an interview with SI.com on February 11, 2013, Griner publicly came out as a lesbian. She also revealed in the interview that she was bullied as a child, explaining, "It's hard. Just being picked on for being different. Just being bigger, my sexuality, everything." She said she is very passionate about working with children in order to bring attention to the issue of bullying, particularly against LGBT people. Griner had previously come out to her parents in high school, which her father did not accept gracefully, forcing her to live with an assistant coach for six weeks during her senior year. She later wrote a memoir with Sue Hovey addressing bullying and self-acceptance, In My Skin: My Life On and Off the Basketball Court, published in 2014.
In a 2019 interview with People, Griner stated, "People tell me I'm going to break the barrier and trailblaze. I just kind of look at it like, I'm just trying to help out, I'm just trying to make it not as tough for the next generation." In 2013, Griner was featured on the cover of ESPN Magazine. She appeared in "The Taboo Issue". She is pictured holding a snake, which is her favorite animal because they are "misunderstood". She says, "You just have to look at it in a different way."
Her endorsement deal with Nike was the first time the company had signed such a deal with an openly gay athlete. Griner continues to push back on traditional gender roles as she regularly models clothes branded as "menswear" for Nike. Nike spokesman Brian Strong said of signing Griner, "We can't get into specifics, but it's safe to say we jumped at the opportunity to work with her because she breaks the mold."
In 2020, Griner, along with teammate Brianna Turner, called for the WNBA to stop playing the United States national anthem before the games. She made her remarks after Mercury players refused to take the floor during a pre-season game in Bradenton, Florida. Griner said she was protesting the killing of Breonna Taylor as part of the wider George Floyd protests. She said later during a media teleconference, "I honestly feel we should not play the national anthem during our season. I think we should take that much of a stand." She said she does not believe that the national anthem should be played at sporting events.
On August 14, 2014, Griner got engaged to fellow WNBA player Glory Johnson. On April 22, 2015, they were both arrested on charges of assault and disorderly conduct after police responded to a fight between the two in their suburban home in Phoenix, Arizona. Both had sustained some injuries. Despite this incident, they married the following month on May 8, 2015, in Phoenix. On May 15, 2015, the WNBA suspended Griner and Johnson for seven games each after Griner pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct charges. Griner was also required to complete 26 weeks of domestic violence counseling.
On June 4, 2015, Griner and Johnson revealed that Johnson was pregnant with twins, conceived with Johnson's eggs through in vitro fertilization. The following day, and after less than a month of marriage, Griner filed for an annulment of the marriage citing fraud and duress; the annulment was denied. Johnson gave birth to twin girls on October 12, 2015, 16 weeks premature. Griner was ordered to pay child support to Johnson. The couple's divorce was finalized in June 2016.
Griner became engaged to Cherelle Watson in August 2018, and they married in June 2019. Watson later changed her name to Cherelle Griner.
On February 17, 2022, Griner was arrested on smuggling charges in Russia. She was detained at Sheremetyevo International Airport after the Federal Customs Service found she was carrying vaporizer cartridges containing less than a gram of hash oil; she had been prescribed medicinal cannabis in Arizona, which is illegal in Russia. Some U.S. officials have expressed concern that Russia may be using her as leverage in response to the Western sanctions imposed against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Former Pentagon official Evelyn Farkas expressed concern that Griner could be used as a "high-profile hostage" by Russia. Houston, Texas Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee called for Griner's release. In an interview with CNN, California Democratic Congressman John Garamendi estimated that it would be "very difficult" to get Griner out of Russia. He stated that although there might be negotiations to have her released, they would be stymied by the fact that diplomatic relations between Russia and the United States were strained because of President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.
In mid-March, 2022, Russian state news agency TASS reported that a Moscow court had extended the period of Griner's detention while under investigation until May 19, with an official from the Russian Public Monitoring Commission stating that "the only objective problem has turned out to be the basketball player's height. The beds in the cell are clearly intended for a person of lesser height." On March 23, the United States Department of State stated that an American diplomatic official had been able to visit Griner in detention, reporting that she was "in good condition."
In early May 2022, the U.S. State Department stated that they had determined Griner was being "wrongfully detained", indicating a more aggressive approach towards securing her release. On May 13, CNN reported that the Russian court extended her pre-trial detention to June 18, 2022. Griner's Russian attorney Alexander Boykov told the Associated Press he believed the relatively short extension of the detention indicated the case would come to trial soon. On May 15, it was reported that the United States and Russia would consider a prisoner swap, with Russia exchanging Griner for international illegal arms dealer Viktor Bout, who has served 10 years of a 25-year federal prison sentence in the United States.
In May 2022, in her first public interview since Griner was detained, Griner's wife Cherelle spoke to Good Morning America and called Griner a "political pawn". Cherelle stated she has heard from Secretary of State Antony Blinken, saying, "I was grateful for the call. You say she's top priority, but I wanna see it."
In a closed-door hearing on June 27, a court in Khimki scheduled Griner's trial to begin on July 1 and extended her detention by six months pending the outcome of her case, according to her attorney, Alexander Boykov. She was photographed by the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse arriving at the hearing. On the second day of her trial, July 7, Griner pled guilty and then said, "But there was no intent. I didn't want to break the law." Griner requested that she be allowed to give testimony to the court as soon as she has had sufficient time to prepare.
On July 27, 2022, U.S. President Joe Biden approved a possible trade for Griner and Paul Whelan, who was arrested in 2018 for espionage in Moscow, and sentenced to 16 years in prison, in exchange for Bout. The possibility of an exchange was further complicated when the Russians demanded the inclusion of convicted assassin Vadim Krasikov, who is serving a life term for an assassination in Germany, in the negotiations.
In July 2022, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov for the first time since the start of Russia's war on Ukraine, to whom he made an offer from the U.S. to secure the release of Griner and Whelan. According to the Tagesschau, it is unlikely that Krasikov will be transferred back to Russia.
On August 4, the court found Griner guilty and sentenced her to nine years in prison. They additionally fined her 1 million rubles (US$16,301).
On November 17, Griner's lawyers said that she was transferred to IK-2, a female penal colony in the town of Yavas in the region of Mordovia; previously she was held in an undisclosed location.
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game||RPG||Rebounds per game|
|APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game||BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game|
|TO||Turnovers per game||FG%||Field-goal percentage||3P%||3-point field-goal percentage||FT%||Free-throw percentage|
|Bold||Career high||°||League leader|
|†||Denotes seasons in which Griner won a WNBA championship|
The judge on their case ultimately denied an annulment, leaving the two women to file for divorce.
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