Brittney Griner Embracing A Fresh Start In 2021

Story by Maddyn Johnstone-Thomas

For Brittney Griner, basketball has been her escape and something that has always brought her joy. 

The pandemic affected everyone mentally in some shape or form, and athletes were no different. Last season, Griner didn’t get that same feeling she gets playing the game she loves, which resulted in her leaving the WNBA bubble for personal reasons.

But with the new season set to get underway, Griner is back to feeling like the same person she always has been, which translates to her play on the court. 

“I’m back feeling great and feeling good,” Griner said. “When you’re on the court and you’re not worrying and thinking and feeling these pressures of just life and everything that’s going on, it’s easy to just play your game…Being in a good place now, it just feels great, being on the court and just having fun with my teammates and with everybody.” 

Griner is entering her ninth season in the league and is a six-time WNBA all-star. This year is special for the WNBA as it is the 25th anniversary, and as the league’s talents are being recognized more, Griner thinks there is still room for growth. 

“We’re making improvements and we’re going in the right direction,” Griner said. “We’re being heard. It’s a shame that we have to fight so hard to get him in this day and age and  this time, but that’s where we’re at, and we’re going to keep fighting. We’re going to keep expanding. We’re not going to be complacent…because we deserve it. Every single lady in this league deserves everything and more.” 

The Mercury will kick off the 2021 season on the road against the Minnesota Lynx on Friday night. The team announced its final roster on Thursday, which includes veteran Kia Vaughn.

She just returned from playing overseas so the team placed her on the temporarily suspended list until she rejoins the team after clearing COVID-19 protocols. 

This will leave Griner as the lone center for the team, and she’s ready for the challenge ahead. 

“Kia’s got some things to take care of right now, so until she gets back, we’re low on demand but this is part of the season,” Griner said. “That can happen at any time, any one of us can go down and somebody has to just pick up the pace. We all have to pick up the pace, pick up the slack…I’m ready for it.” 

The Mercury signed Cierra Burdick, who was in training camp with the team, to a hardship roster spot while guard Bria Hartley is out with a knee injury. 

“We’re getting good at working together,” Griner said of the new teammate. “We’re meshing. We’re working on chemistry.”

As she gets ready to take the court for her ninth season, Griner acknowledges how special this season is for the league and how much it has evolved. As fans get back to their seats, Griner reflected on being able to interact with younger fans and help be a role model for the next generation. 

“For them to be able to come to our games and just see the excitement on their faces when they come in and are able to get closer to us than they would in any other sport. I feel like our fan base, we’re able to get closer to and have more of a connection with them in some way,” Griner said. “That’s what I think makes us even more special. So, I always take joy in that.” 

The Mercury will take on the Minnesota Lynx Friday night at 6 p.m. local time. The game can be seen on CBS Sports Network.