By Dorothy J. Gentry
Photos: Dorothy J. Gentry and Dallas Wings
It was Welcome Home BG night at College Park Center in Arlington on Wednesday night, but the Dallas Wings spoiled the homecoming for the Texas native, beating the Phoenix Mercury 84-79.
Satou Sabally had 24 points and 10 rebounds and Kalani Brown added 17 points and 15 rebounds in the Wings (4-3) victory. Arike Ogunbowale finished with 17 points and Wings rookie Maddy Siegrist set a season high with nine points in the first half before finishing with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Griner finished the game for the Mercury with 24 points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals.
“Welcome Home BG” night featured plenty of fun, laughter, guests and acknowledgment of the basketball star and Houston native who played her first game in Arlington since May of 2021.
She was greeted by fans, signs and family and friends from all over the state, including the women’s basketball team at Baylor University – where Griner played and won a national championship – and the basketball team from Chester W. Nimitz Senior High School in Houston where Griner played high school basketball.
Her wife, attorney Cherelle Griner, was also in attendance for the big night. She played a key role in ensuring the public did not forget Griner while she was in detained in Russia, and she was integral in the fight to bring her back home.
“She’s the real MVP,” Griner said. “Thank you for being my rock.”
The night, while filled was joy at Griner’s return, was also about spreading the news about many other families affected by the wrongful detainment of their loved ones.
Attending the game were Meera Shahin and her fiancé Joshua Karam who visited with Griner before the game. Wearing T-shirts featuring the face of her father, Zack Shahin, they traveled from Houston to attend the game and to bring attention to her father, an American businessman who has been imprisoned in Dubai for 15 years. The family has been working to free Shahin from a prison in the United Arab Emirates where he has been held for a financial crime his family says he didn’t commit. The United States has not declared Shahin’s wrongfully detained. But per reports, earlier this year, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found he was arbitrarily detained, kidnapped and subjected to multiple human rights crimes.
In her postgame interview, Griner thanked everyone for their support, shared how her ordeal changed her, and acknowledged those who are still being detained, stating she is now fighting for a bigger cause.
“I’m always going to be me but I think I’m fighting a different fight now with the Bring Our Family Home,” she said. “Before all of this happened, like I knew, you know, that we had Americans in places that were detained but I didn’t know how severe it really was until I lived it.
“So I guess you could say that BG has something else that she is fighting for now.”
Griner also acknowledged the love and support from her alma mater Baylor University, and said she can’t wait to have her jersey retired.
“I would love to see my jersey in the rafters – once she [new head coach Nicki Collen] got there, the doors really opened up and the love and support came in.”
The rematch between the Wings and the Mercury takes place Friday at College Park Night. Friday is also Pride Night and the game is sold out.