Brittney Griner was named one of two AP Comeback Players of the Year for the 2023 WNBA season.
Griner was named an All-Star for the eighth time earlier this year after missing all of last year while in a Russian prison.
The 32-year-old was arrested in February 2022 at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport after authorities discovered vape canisters with cannabis oil in her luggage.
She was sentenced to nine years in August after pleading guilty to drug charges but was traded for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in a controversial prisoner exchange in December. She arrived back on U.S. soil Dec. 9.
Bout, who is known internationally as the “Merchant of Death,” was serving 25 years in federal prison after he was convicted of conspiracy to kill Americans relating to the support of a Colombian terrorist organization.
The swap outraged some Americans who argued the U.S. gave up way too much in exchange for the WNBA star. Griner had been ridiculed for saying the national anthem should not be played before sporting events, but she has since changed her stance.
As long as she was able to post her usual numbers, she was going to be in contention for the award – she received a standing ovation in her WNBA return back in May.
American officials, most notably President Biden, were also criticized for not including in the exchange Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine convicted of espionage charges he says are false. He is serving a 16-year sentence.
Griner shared the award with Napheesa Collier, who missed nearly all of last season after giving birth to her first child. She averaged 21.5 points and 8.5 rebounds to help the Minnesota Lynx earn the sixth seed in the playoffs. Griner’s Mercury went 9-31 failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
In 31 games, Griner averaged 17.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game.