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What did Lakers’ LeBron James have to say about Brittney Griner’s release and return to the U.S.A.?

The Lakers star was open, about what he felt was the great significance, that the WNBA star’s release holds not just for the basketball community, but Americans as well.

What did Lakers’ LeBron James have to say about Brittney Griner’s release and return to the U.S.A.?
Nick TurchiaroUSA TODAY Sports

As both the sporting and political world react to Britney Griner’s return to the U.S.A., so too did the Lakers star with a sincere message of appreciation for the momentous occasion.

LeBron James acknowledges how big Brittney Griner’s return is

With reports confirming Brittney Griner’s return to the U.S.A. on Friday, the saga which saw the WNBA star spend 294 days behind bars in Russia finally came to an end. It goes without saying, that likely everyone in the basketball world and even those beyond, breathed a collective sigh of relief. Indeed, Lakers icon LeBron James was one such person and he opened up about it during the latest episode of “The Shop” alternate stream of “Thursday Night Football.” Speaking with longtime friend and business partner Maverick Carter, James discussed Griner’s release and subsequent return, which was of course facilitated by the exchange of notorious Russian arms dealer, Viktor Bout. Referring to Griner’s release as an important cause for the basketball world, James still acknowledged that there are other wrongfully detained Americans in foreign countries.

“I think it’s a great day. For us as Americans, I think having BG back, in the sports world, just having her family’s back, I know her wife misses her and her family misses her, her club misses her here in Phoenix. To have her a part of the basketball brother and sisterhood, it’s a big day for us and what we do. Kudos to the president, kudos to Kamala Harris and everyone that had something to do with it. Like Mav said, there’s a lot of people that’s unlawfully detained right now. We hope we can get them all.”

Paul Whelan and the tricky question of urgency

One of the above-mentioned Americans, is of course Paul Whelan who has been in a Russian prison for almost four years. A former marine, Whelan was actually an individual who U.S. officials attempted to include in the deal for Griner, however, Russia gave no ground on any proposal that mentioned the 52-year-old who was sentenced to 16 years in prison due to allegations of espionage. It’s understood that even when offered a direct Whelan-for-Bout exchange, the Kremlin refused to budge. Needless to say, both Whelan and Griner’s situations have raised questions about just how much urgency the American government has attributed to negotiations. James himself courted controversy back in July when he seemed to imply that Griner might be justified in not wanting to return home.

At any rate, it’s worth noting that now that she is in fact home, Griner’s process of returning to the court is only just getting started. According to WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert, the Phoenix Mercury star will be given ample time and space to fully recover from her ordeal, before the league begins to engage with her. With that, we can only sit and wait until the league’s best player is ready to go again.