Brittney Griner named honorary WNBA All-Star starter

NEW YORK — Brittney Griner will have a place at the WNBA All-Star Game, named an honorary starter Wednesday by Commissioner Cathy Engelbert for the July 10 game at Wintrust Arena in Chicago.

Griner has been detained in Russia since Feb. 17 after authorities at an airport outside of Moscow said she had vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her bag.

“During each season of Brittney’s career in which there has been an All-Star Game, she has been selected as an All-Star,” Engelbert said. “It is not difficult to imagine that if BG were here with us this season, she would once again be selected and would, no doubt, show off her incredible talents. So it is only fitting that she be named as an honorary starter today and we continue to work on her safe return to the U.S.”

The State Department in May designated Griner as wrongfully detained, moving her case under the supervision of its special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, who is effectively the government’s chief hostage negotiator.

Russian state-run news agency Tass reported last week that Griner’s detention was extended until at least July 2. Another American, Paul Whelan, has been held in Russia since December 2018 on espionage charges he and the U.S. government say are false.

The Seattle Storm’s Breanna Stewart and Las Vegas Aces’ A’ja Wilson received the most votes from fans and were selected as co-captains for the event. They will be joined by the Storm’s Sue Bird and the Minnesota Lynx’s Sylvia Fowles, who both have announced they will retire at the end of the season. Bird will set a record with her 13th All-Star appearance. Fowles, who is injured, was selected for her eighth game.

Stewart and Fowles will be paired as co-captains, as will Wilson and Bird, and will choose their teams.

Joining Stewart, Wilson and Fowles in the frontcourt are the Chicago Sky’s Candace Parker, the Connecticut Sun’s Jonquel Jones and the Los Angeles Sparks’ Nneka Ogwumike. The starting guards, in addition to Bird, are the New York Liberty’s Sabrina Ionescu and Las Vegas teammates Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young.

“For icons like Sylvia and Sue to be voted … as starters in their 15th and 19th seasons, respectively, is extraordinary,” Engelbert said. “And when you see the starting lineups dotted with first-time All-Stars like Sabrina Ionescu, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young, it just seems right that Sylvia and Sue — who have said this will be their final season — join A’ja and Breanna as co-captains for an All-Star event that will in some ways symbolize the passing of the torch to a new generation of WNBA stars.”

Starters were chosen by a combination of fan, media and player voting.

The league’s coaches will vote for the 12 reserves, and the co-captains will draft their rosters July 2. A 3-point competition and skills challenge will take place in Chicago the day before the game.

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