US VP Harris greets ex-Russia detainee Brittney Griner in WNBA return

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Brittney Griner returned to the WNBA hardwood on Friday night in Los Angeles to cheers from a raucous crowd that included US Vice President Kamala Harris.

The mood was celebratory as Griner, who was released from a Russian penal colony in a high profile prisoner exchange with the US late last year, was embraced by Harris on the court before the game.

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Griner looked emotional when she was introduced and despite her Phoenix Mercury being the visiting team, saw the crowd erupt when she hit a 17-foot jumper on her first attempt of the contest.

“It felt good, it felt real good,” Griner said of making the shot after missing all of last season while detained in Russia.

“If felt like the last time I played.”

Outside the arena, Nike billboards displayed a photo of Griner with the caption “Basketball is Home.”

Griner was taken into custody at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and subsequently convicted of narcotics possession and trafficking after she was found to have been carrying vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage.

She said she was prescribed medical cannabis in the United States for a chronic injury and never intended to break the law. US officials said she was wrongly detained and was being used as a political pawn amid increasingly strained relations with Moscow.

Griner, 32, kicked off her 10th season with the Mercury on Friday after playing in a pre-season game one week ago.

Tennis Hall of Famer Billie Jean King and Lakers legend Magic Johnson were among others on hand for the game, which the Sparks won 94-71.

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