Phoenix Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard blasted Los Angeles fans for not selling out Crypto.com Arena in Brittney Griner’s first WNBA game since she was freed from Russian detention. (Watch the video below.)
Griner and the Mercury made their season debut away Friday against the Los Angeles Sparks in front of 10,396 fans ― a little more than half-capacity, but well above the 2022 average attendance of about 5,700 at WNBA games. Vice President Kamala Harris was on hand to greet the star and the crowd gave Griner a rousing ovation.
“I mean, it was great. But like honestly, c’mon LA. We didn’t sell out the arena for BG? Like, I expected more, you know, to be honest. Right, it was great, it was loud. But how was it not a sellout? How was it not a sellout?” Nygaard said after the Mercury lost to the Sparks, 94-71.
Griner, a six-time All-Star who won the 2014 WNBA championship with the Mercury, collected 18 points and six rebounds in her first regular-season action since her nearly 10-month detention in Russia. She was freed in December via a high-profile prisoner swap after being arrested at a Moscow airport in February 2022. Russian officials said her luggage contained vape cartridges with cannabis oil.
Griner scored 27 points in a Mercury loss at home to Chicago on Sunday. A crowd of 14,040 attended. Nygaard said she was “tearing up” at the reception for Griner’s first game at Phoenix’s Footprint Center since October 2021.