Chicago, IL—-At Sunday’s WNBA All-Star game, players took to the hardwood in jerseys bearing fellow player Brittney Griner’s name and donning the 42.
Griner, a star of the Phoenix Mercury, has been detained in Russia on drug charges since February after vape canisters with cannabis oil were allegedly found in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. She pleaded guilty last week.
A’ja Wilson’s team beat Breanna Stewart’s team 132-112 in a high-scoring contest at Wintrust Arena. After the game, players made it clear that their focus was on Griner.
“BG’s one of us. She’s our sister,” said Wilson, who plays for the Las Vegas Aces. “And at the end of the day, we’re going to do whatever we can to amplify the platform that we have to make sure that everyone is doing what they need to do to make sure that she gets home safely.”
Kelsey Plum of the Las Vegas Aces was named All-Star Game MVP after scoring 30 points, which tied the All-Star Game record that was previously set by Maya Moore in 2015.
Plum was not gun shy of her intentions going into the All-Star Game, telling Espn analyst LaChina Robinson on Saturday night, “Hell yeah I’m going for MVP.” She came out throwing the ball up, and ended up taking a team-high 18 shots. She knocked down 12 of them to set a new All-Star record for made field goals.
Sylvia Fowles and Sue Bird, named to their eighth and 13th All-Star Games, respectively, bowed out of their final All-Star game in grandiose style, co-captains A’ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart presenting them flowers at half-court during the game.
Fowles brought the crowd to their in the first half with a breakaway one handed dunk, Bird, who finished scoreless for the first time in a WNBA All-Star Game — received a standing ovation from the crowd as they checked out of the game for the last time.
Team Wilson top scorers Kelsey Plum (30 points), Jonquel Jones (29) and Jewell Loyd (21) came through to assure that the new crop of players of the WNBA remains in good hands as its longtime legends step away.
Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird added: “We just wanted to make sure at some point that we were able to, on national television, obviously in front of a big crowd, put Brittney’s name in the forefront. That was our way of honoring her.”
The started off with Team Wilson running a set play to get Lynx superstar Sylvia Fowles a 3-pointer. Fowles has only attempted one 3-pointer in her historic 15-season career, but she was pure on this one.
After Fowles’ shot, the first quarter turned into the Jonquel Jones show. The Connecticut Sun star hit the first 4-point shot of the day and put up 14 points to help Team Stewart get out to an early lead in the contest.
In the second quarter, Fowles and company went to work. Team Wilson dominated the second quarter, 36-11 to build a double-digit advantage. The turnaround was highlighted by Fowles’ rim rocker. After stealing the rock from Jackie Young, she went coast-to-coast and threw down a slam that brought both teams, and the crowd, to their feet.
When play resumed, Team Stewart tried to mount a little comeback. By the fourth quarter, they had trimmed the deficit to single digits thanks to Jewell Loyd, who caught fire from downtown. Jones also continued to play like a beast and finished with 29 points and 13 boards. But, their performances were ultimately not enough to derail Team Wilson.
Sabrina Ionescu (19 points) and Rhyne Howard (13) also made impressive debuts for Team Stewart.
Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, was seated courtside during the display. Several players hugged her.
“Obviously we are thinking of Brittney Griner at this time,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in Chicago. “She remains a huge priority for us, continues to have our full support, fully focused on getting her home safely and as soon as possible of course.”