Brittney Griner, held in Russia, was the MVP of the WNBA’s All-Star Weekend

Both All-Star teams played the second half in solidarity with Brittney Griner's number 42.

Both All-Star squads played the second half carrying Brittney Griner’s No. 42 in solidarity.
PhotoGetty Images

CHICAGO — Some things are impossible to ignore.

With four circles on the field, for the first time in WNBA All-Star Game history, a four-pointer was real. And for much of the first quarter, it seemed like every player on the field was flying one. And they did. Again and again. And as each member of the starting grid took turns hoisting shots from the logos placed a few paces past half-court, you couldn’t help but think about one question:

Would Brittney Griner have tried one?

On Saturday, Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson announced that he plans to travel to Russia in the coming weeks in hopes of finding a deal to bring her home, as she has been detained in Russia since mid-February. As hopeful as we may be about that upcoming trip, the WNBA and its players did everything they could to make sure this weekend was about number 42.

“We are thinking about Brittney Griner at the moment and she remains a huge priority for us. She continues to receive our full support and we are fully focused on getting her home safely and as soon as possible,” said competition commissioner Cathy Engelbert during her pregame press conference.

The warm-ups had her name and number on the back. She was named an honorary starter. And as you looked around Wintrust Arena, it was impossible not to see, hear or feel something that reminded you of the elephant in the room – that one of the WNBA’s best players is in a foreign prison cell during a weekend when the competition is played. celebrating is the best and smartest.

Despite the fun there all weekend, a cloud hung over the center of the women’s basketball world, a contrast to how sunny and beautiful the summer days were outside. After halftime, both teams came out to pose for a photo as they all donned Griner’s jerseys for the second half of the game.

“If one of you is clearly wrongly detained, wrongly accused and all that, it’s all hands on board,” Becky Hammond said before the match. Cherelle Griner, Brittney’s wife, sat on the side of some of Hammond’s chairs when she made her All-Star Game debut as head coach.

“It’s a family,” Hammond said. “Not only the WNBA and its players, but also the NBA help to put a national light on it, maybe put some pressure on the Russian government to do the right thing and let her go.

“It’s time she came back.”

Last week, Phoenix Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard said out loud what so many were thinking.

“If it was LeBron, he’d be home, right?” she asked† “It is a statement about the value of women. It is a statement about the worth of a black person. It’s a statement about the worth of a gay man. All those things. We know, and that’s why it hurts a little more.”

like i have written in the past“Blacks have a hard time. Black women have it harder. Black gay women have it the hardest. It’s hard to be a triple minority in America, but especially in Russia.

Despite “how far we’ve come,” it’s impossible to discuss Griner’s situation without realizing that who she is plays a big part in it. And during a weekend that celebrated and glorified the identity of the women in the WNBA, Griner’s absence was a reminder that equality is far from the norm.

Sunday was also a reminder of how far that WNBA has come, as it gets better and better as the game evolves. Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles were honored as two of the best to ever do it, playing in their final All-Star game in their final season. The highlight of the game was Fowles’ dunk in transition in the second quarter. Kelsey Plum of Las Vegas walked away with the MVP trophy, tying the record for most points scored in a single WNBA All-Star Game, matching Maya Moore’s 30 points from 2015 when Team Wilson, which includes Plum, defeated Team Stewart with 134-112. Plum was named starter in her first All-Star Game for being one of nine former No. 1 overall picks featured in the game.

But in the end, the whole weekend revolved around who didn’t get a chance to speak. And while we hope and pray that Brittney Griner will come home sooner than later, the basketball world made sure she received her flowers this past weekend.