Mark Anderson Associated Press
LAS VEGAS — Britney Greiner returns emotionally with a strong showing at the WNBA’s midseason showcase event.
She scored the team’s first six points and two dunks to finish with 18 points in Saturday night’s league All-Star Game.
When Greiner was introduced, the full house roared and, clearly moved by the applause, she thumped her right hand over the heart. A year after skipping the event, there was no doubt that Greiner was the star of the show.
“I didn’t expect to be here today,” Greiner said. “Everyone who sent letters and love meant so much to me.”
Greiner led Team Stewart, captained by New York Liberty’s Brianna Stewart, to a 143-127 victory over Team Wilson, led by ace Aja Wilson.
Team Stewart’s Seattle Storm’s Jewel Lloyd set the mark on a pass from Greiner, breaking the All-Star Game scoring record with 31 points. Maya Moore and Kelsey Plum had the previous record of 30 points each. Lloyd earned MVP honors in this game.
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In fact, Plum was one of four aces competing for Team Wilson with 30 points, tying his own record, and his pre-game introduction drew ovations from the home crowd.
Around this time last year, Greiner was detained in Russia on drug charges, sparking international outrage over alleged unfair detention. The WNBA named her its honorary starter, and all players wore her number 42 jersey late last year.
This time, Griner was actually the only player in the starting lineup to have that number, and was overshadowed by nearly everything that happened on the court.
Team Stewart made Greiner the focus from the start. She dunked an outlet pass from Stewart with 3:50 left in the first quarter. Greiner also scored a dunk just 25 seconds into the second half.
“I called my knees and talked to them and gave them a little pep talk,” the 32-year-old Greiner said of the dunk.
At some point in the first quarter, Greiner challenged Team Wilson point guard and ace Chelsea Gray, but Gray overtook nine-time Phoenix Mercury All-Star Gray and reversed from high on the glass. I decided on a layup.
During the first media timeout, Greiner was shown sitting on a bench on a video board with the words “Welcome, Britney Greiner” written on the screen under his face.
Greiner was one of the players who wore a mic during the game and joked that he “got something in my eye” after missing a 3-point shot.
The game was played on a 20-second shot clock instead of the usual 24 seconds, with two additional 4-point spots on either side of the court, and no free throws. Both teams made 12 four-pointers combined.
New York’s Sabrina Ionescu, Team Stewart principal, followed up on the previous day’s exceptional shooting, making all three shots from four ranges in the first half. Ionescu scored 37 of 40 points in the 3-point contest, setting a WNBA and NBA record. She finished with 18 goals.
Among the former WNBA players were Sue Bird, Seymone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles, who wore Nafisa Collier’s Minnesota Lynx jersey.
Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis and Dwyane Wade were among NBA officials. Wade has purchased ownership of Chicago Sky.
2024 All-Star Game: The 2024 WNBA All-Star Game will be held in Phoenix and will be set as the home game of Britney Griner and Diana Taurasi and the send-off game of the US Olympic Women’s Basketball Team.
WNBA Commissioner Kathy Engelbart announced Saturday that the Phoenix Mercury will host the event.
“They have done a lot since I joined the league,” said Engelbert. “It’s been great working with Matt Ishbia under new owners.”
Ishbia, who became owner of Mercury and the Suns in February, was thrilled to have the chance to host a game in Las Vegas this weekend. She posted record performances in Friday’s All-Star Skills and 3-Point Contests, with Sabrina Ionescu making 25 of 27 3-point shots and at one point making 20 in a row.
“This is a really big thing for our franchise and allows us to elevate ourselves and continue to be a franchise that hosts events like this,” Ishubia said in a telephone interview. “This is huge for our community and we want to put on a great show for our fans, our community and the country at large and continue to improve the women’s game.”
The match is expected to be similar to the 2021 edition, where the US Olympic team will play against players not selected for that team. The All-Star team beat the US team 93-83 that year.