CHICAGO — Some issues are not possible to disregard.
With 4 circles positioned on the court docket, for the primary time in WNBA All-Star Sport 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 photographs from the logos positioned a couple 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 announced that he’s planning to journey to Russia within the coming weeks in hopes of discovering a deal to convey her house, as she’s been in detention in Russia since mid-February. As hopeful as we will be about that upcoming journey, the WNBA and its gamers did all that they might to guarantee that this weekend was about No. 42.
“We’re pondering of Brittney Griner at the moment and he or she stays an enormous precedence for us. She continues to have our full assist and we’re absolutely targeted on getting her house safely and as quickly as attainable,” mentioned league commissioner Cathy Engelbert throughout her pregame press convention.
The warmups had her identify and quantity on the again. She was named an honorary starter. And as you appeared 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 during which the league is celebrating it’s finest 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 have 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 among your personal is clearly being wrongfully detained, fallacious accused, and whatnot, it’s all palms on board,” mentioned Becky Hammond earlier than the sport. Cherelle Griner, Brittney’s spouse, sat courtside a couple of seats from Hammond as she made her All-Star Sport 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 mild to it solely helps perhaps put some stress 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 house, proper?” she asked. “It’s an announcement in regards to the worth of ladies. It’s an announcement in regards to the worth of a Black particular person. It’s an announcement in regards to the worth of a homosexual particular person. All of these issues. We all know it, and in order that’s what hurts a bit of extra.”
As I’ve written in the past, Black individuals have it laborious. Black ladies have it tougher. Black homosexual ladies 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 scenario 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 have been celebrated and uplifted, Griner’s absence was a reminder that equality remains 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 Chook and Sylvia Fowles have been honored as two of the perfect which have ever executed it, taking part in of their remaining All-Star sport 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 document for many factors scored in a single WNBA All-Star Sport, matching Maya Moore’s 30 factors from 2015 as Crew Wilson, which featured Plum, defeated Crew Stewart 134-112. Plum was voted a starter in her first All-Star Sport, as she was one among 9 former No. 1 general picks that have been featured within the sport.
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 house earlier than later, this previous weekend the basketball world made positive she obtained her flowers.