On Friday, Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner played her first WNBA game in two years after being imprisoned in Russia for the entirety of last season. Brittney Griner’s highly anticipated return was reflected in the television ratings for the Mercury’s game against the Los Angeles Sparks.
Griner and the Mercury visited the Sparks Friday night in the 2023 WNBA season opener. Even though the game didn’t start until well after 11 p.m. ET, it drew the sixth-best TV ratings in the 18-49 demographic for any original cable telecast Friday, according to ShowBuzzDaily. An average of 683,000 TV viewers watched Griners’ first WNBA game since her Russia imprisonment on ESPN.
The Sparks’ 94-71 victory over the Mercury registered a 0.23 TV rating in the 18-49 demo. Only the NBA and NHL conference finals, postgame coverage for the NBA playoff game and PGA Championship coverage drew a better rating in the demo than Griner’s first game back.
Griner led the Mercury with 18 points in the loss. She needed just 25 minutes and nine field-goal attempts to do so. Griner also added six rebounds, two assists and four blocks.
“It’s hard just taking a break anyway between seasons,” Griner said after Friday’s game, acknowledging some rust after being trapped in Russia for 10 months. “I remember I had a month off one time, and I thought it was death.
“By the All-Star game (in July), I hope to be exactly where I want to be, just being able to play — I mean, I’m going to regret this — 40 minutes, just getting back to how it was before all this happened.”