Brittney Griner’s return to the WNBA is selected for season-opening TV coverage on ESPN… as Phoenix Mercury star plays again after 10 months in Russian penal colony
Brittney Griner’s return to professional basketball has been chosen by ESPN as its season-opening TV coverage of the WNBA, as the Phoenix Mercury star is set to play again after being detained in a Russian penal colony for 10 months.
The network’s coverage of the matchup between the Mercury and L.A. Sparks will be the first of 25 regular-season broadcasts shown on the channel from May 19. ABC and ESPN2 are also expected to broadcast a few WNBA games this season.
Playoff games and the WNBA All-Star Game will also be shown on the network, with the latter making its ABC primetime debut on July 15 in Las Vegas (8.30 p.m. E.T.).
Griner, 32, is expected to start at center for the Mercury against the Sparks after having missed all of of last season following her detainment in Russia before her release in a high-profile prison swap for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout.
The Houston, Texas, native previously played professional basketball in Russia and was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February 2022 after Russian authorities claimed she was carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil.
ESPN chose Brittney Griner’s return as its game-opening coverage of the new WNBA season
The center, 32, is set to play for the Phoenix Mercury after being held in Russia for 10 months
In response, the U.S. government stated that Griner was ‘wrongfully detained’ before ensuring the athlete’s return in December.
Following her homecoming, Griner signed in February with the Mercury – the team that initially drafted her as the No. 1 pick of the 2013 WNBA draft. Last week, she was spotted embracing new Phoenix Suns player Kevin Durant ahead of his competitive debut for his new team following his return from injury and trade from the Nets.
As part of its league coverage, ESPN will produce a pregame show called ‘WNBA Countdown presented by Google’, which will be aired before at least 10 regular-season games and during the playoffs.
‘As we get set to tip off our 27th season, ESPN is once again stepping up as an incredibly engaged broadcast partner for the WNBA,’ league commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement. ‘We are grateful that ESPN will provide significant opportunities to tell the stories of the incredible players across the league in 2023.
Griner missed all of last season following her imprisonment, last playing in the WNBA in 2021
‘From tip-off weekend through the highly anticipated postseason, ESPN and Google will continue to serve our growing fan base and deliver a robust national platform for WNBA players with game broadcasts and new, regular-season pregame shows.’
Other WNBA broadcasts that’ll be shown by ESPN on opening weekend include the Atlanta Dream taking on the Dallas Wings and the Seattle Storm hosting the league defending champions – the Las Vegas Aces. Both games will be shown on ABC.
‘As ESPN enters its 27th season with the WNBA, we continue to elevate our coverage of this exceptional league with premier broadcast windows, expanded studio programming and best-in-class storytelling,’ said Matt Kenny, ESPN’s vice president of programming and acquisitions.
‘Our ongoing collaboration with the WNBA resulted in unprecedented growth and success last year and we have a marquee schedule that will once again showcase the league’s best players and teams across ESPN platforms.’