CHICAGO — Some issues are not possible to disregard.
With 4 circles positioned on the court docket, for the primary time in WNBA All-Star Recreation historical past, a 4-pointer was an actual factor. And for a lot of the primary quarter it appeared like each participant on the court docket let one fly. And they also did. Over, and over, and over once more. And as every member of the beginning lineup took turns hoisting pictures from the logos positioned a number of steps previous half court docket, you couldn’t assist however ponder one query:
Would Brittney Griner have tried one?
On Saturday, former New Mexico Gov. Invoice Richardson introduced that he’s planning to journey to Russia within the coming weeks in hopes of discovering a deal to carry her residence, as she’s been in detention in Russia since mid-February. As hopeful as we could be about that upcoming journey, the WNBA and its gamers did all that they may to guarantee that this weekend was about No. 42.
“We’re pondering of Brittney Griner presently and he or she stays an enormous precedence for us. She continues to have our full help and we’re totally targeted on getting her residence safely and as quickly as attainable,” mentioned league commissioner Cathy Engelbert throughout her pregame press convention.
The warmups had her title and quantity on the again. She was named an honorary starter. And as you regarded round Wintrust Area it was not possible to not see, hear, or really feel one thing that reminded you of the elephant within the room — that one of many WNBA’s biggest gamers is in a overseas jail cell throughout a weekend wherein the league is celebrating it’s greatest and brightest.
Regardless of the enjoyable that was had all through the weekend, there was a cloud hanging over the middle of the ladies’s basketball world, a distinction to how sunny and exquisite the summer season days had been exterior. After halftime, each groups got here out to pose for an image as all of them donned Griner’s jersey for the second half of the sport.
“When one in every of your personal is clearly being wrongfully detained, mistaken accused, and whatnot, it’s all fingers on board,” mentioned Becky Hammond earlier than the sport. Cherelle Griner, Brittney’s spouse, sat courtside a number of seats from Hammond as she made her All-Star Recreation debut as a head coach.
“It’s a household,” mentioned Hammond. “Not solely has the WNBA and its gamers, but additionally the NBA, bringing a nationwide gentle to it solely helps possibly put some strain on the Russian authorities to do the correct factor and let her go.
“It’s time for her to come back again.”
Final week, Phoenix Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard mentioned out loud what so many have been pondering.
“If it was LeBron, he’d be residence, proper?” she requested. “It’s an announcement in regards to the worth of girls. It’s an announcement in regards to the worth of a Black individual. It’s an announcement in regards to the worth of a homosexual individual. All of these issues. We all know it, and in order that’s what hurts just a little extra.”
As I’ve written prior to now, Black individuals have it exhausting. Black girls have it more durable. Black homosexual girls have it the toughest. It’s powerful being a triple minority in America, however particularly in Russia.
Regardless of “how far we’ve come,” it’s not possible to debate Griner’s state of affairs with out realizing that who she is performs an enormous function on this. And through a weekend when the identities of the ladies within the WNBA had been celebrated and uplifted, Griner’s absence was a reminder that equality continues to be so removed from being the norm.
Sunday was additionally a reminder of how far that WNBA has come, because it retains getting higher as the sport evolves. Sue Fowl and Sylvia Fowles had been honored as two of the perfect which have ever performed it, enjoying of their last All-Star recreation of their final season. The spotlight of the sport was Fowles’ dunk in transition through the second quarter. Las Vegas’ Kelsey Plum walked away with the MVP trophy, tying the file for many factors scored in a single WNBA All-Star Recreation, matching Maya Moore’s 30 factors from 2015 as Group Wilson, which featured Plum, defeated Group Stewart 134-112. Plum was voted a starter in her first All-Star Recreation, as she was one in every of 9 former No. 1 total picks that had been featured within the recreation.
However ultimately, your entire weekend was about who didn’t get an opportunity to take the ground. And whereas we hope and pray that Brittney Griner returns residence ahead of later, this previous weekend the basketball world made positive she acquired her flowers.