Moments For A Lifetime

The Welcome Home Opener  

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Every team has a season home opener, but when 585 days have passed since a beloved member of the X-Factor has worn a Mercury jersey and played in front of adoring fans, home activates a new level of warmth and security. 

The Phoenix Mercury organization spent tireless hours on activations and campaigns to keep WNBA Champion Brittney Griner’s name alive during the 2022 season.  

Just days after BG returned home, this franchise determined that our first home game of the 2023 regular season would be known to the world as The Welcome Home Opener. The Mercury worked through meeting after meeting to ensure their star felt an overwhelming outpour of love as she ran out onto the hardwood. 

As the house lights went dark, Phoenix poet Jay Tatum appeared between two video panels. She captivated the audience by stringing words together seamlessly to display how this journey started, how it made everyone feel and what it meant to stand at 6-foot-9 in this moment.  

After drawing in over one million viewers on her first game of the season on May 19th, Griner stepped out to be welcomed home on the red Bally Bet carpet to embrace the cheers of 14,040 fans in Footprint Center: 

“At six foot nine from Baylor University” 

After entirely way too long, the WNBA’s 144 was complete again. 

The Mamba Mentality  

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Two-time WNBA MVP Taurasi is one of one. And now she has 10,000 points, countless minutes and a countless number of lives changed all in a Mercury jersey

What some have labeled as a lethal shooting technique and an unwavering amount of consistency led the Chino native to permanently putting her name in the history books as the first and only WNBA player to score 10,000 points.  

The star guard came off of a screen on the right side of the court, caught a pass from her fellow Husky Moriah Jefferson and shot her signature three without any doubt that it would hit anything but net.  

The goat said it was the perfect way to score her milestone. 

After being the fastest player to score 3,000 points and leaving large margins between herself and her opponents, she knew this day would come. Once the shot was delivered, the entire Footprint Center filled with the X-Factor, young girls, Taurasi’s parents and real goats erupted in celebration. 

Taurasi floated across the court with her arms to embrace the love that she sometimes shies away from. 

Making History in The Valley  

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The Mercury has produced an undeniable lineage of greats, but it was not until the team acquired former Texas Longhorn Sug Sutton in 2023 that the group experienced a triple-double

In the regular season finale against the Las Vegas Aces, the Mercury guard posted the franchise’s first triple-double with 18 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. Sutton’s journey in the WNBA has been anything but traditional. Yet, the breakout guard is living in the beginning of a moment she once dreamed about. 

Sutton was drafted as the last member for the 2020 draft class to the Washington Mystics. Despite her positioning, she has made the most out of every opportunity she has earned

In addition to juggling what comes along with fitting into a new home, Sutton faced the league’s best point guard’s night after night and never backed down from a challenge.  

In true Mercury sister fashion, after having an emotional season herself, Griner comforted Sutton at the media podium and gave her praise for a season well done. 

The No. 42 Means More  

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Just doing enough is never the bar for the three-time WNBA champion. Not only did Taurasi hit her 10,000th point, but she also had a 42-point performance in a 91-71 triumph over the Atlanta Dream.  

Taurasi is far from a one-hit wonder. With four 40-point games under her belt, she constantly shows what the world may deem impossible is truly possible for her. 

After not seeing much game time action in her freshman year at the University of Connecticut, the three-time NCAA champion shows what it means to remain dedicated and disciplined amid the fire. 

For Taurasi, going through the fire is no tall task. She says when she is in the zone, she is flowing water. The 2004 WNBA Rookie of the Year’s zone makes her feel like she is in space where nothing else matters, not the crowd or even the score. 

With all the trophies and accolades that often leave announcers tongue-tied when introducing her, she has remained as selfless as the budding high schooler trying to navigate where to play their college career that she once was. In what seems to be an endless prime, she still manages to think of the next woman up. 

“I want the number to be as big as it can be, because when someone breaks it, it’s going to be even bigger and even better,” Taurasi said. 

“I’m Back”  

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After an emotional life changing rollercoaster, Griner reminded the thousands of people watching her return to the court, that she is not new to this, she is true to this. 

To start the joyous occasion, after winning the jump ball, 10-time All Star Diana Taurasi dishes the ball to Griner’s sweet spot just inside the perimeter.  

Griner does her infamous two hard dribbles, puts her defender into the spin cycle, pump fakes, sending her defender into the air to score the first points of the game in true elite player fashion.  

In case anyone forgot, Griner showed she is a basketball player first. But she was anything but finished after executing her trademark move. 

Well on her way to a double-double, Griner launched a three-pointer right at the top of the key and drained it. 

“Out to Griner, she’ll fire a three! You bet!” 

The 9x All-Star put two threes in the air and did a 360 to make sure all eyes everywhere knew the return was indeed here. Moments later after scoring her twentieth point of the game, she tapped her chest two times with her fist and screamed, “I’m back.”  

At that moment, the entire X-Factor knew their missing piece was back and ready to compete.

9x Time All-Star  

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Amid a season with leaps and bounds, Griner showed why she is the 2023 AP Comeback Player of the Year. Two months into the season, Griner was announced as a 2023 All-Star. 

Griner would not only participate in the game, but she was “drafted” to New York’s Breanna Stewart’s team. 

As the 9x All-Star was announced, she received the loudest ovation out of all the players. Griner also had the most all-star selections out of any other 2023 starter.  

Our ace of spades’ All-Star journey was watched by over 850,000 fans from coast to coast. She gave each person a show by scoring 18 points and 13 rebounds. She posted an All-Star game dunk that sent the fans into a frenzy.  

After a long weekend of showing off her moves with the commissioner, throwing down two slams, a pep talk with her knees and millions of Tik Tok views, Griner has only shown a slight sneak peak of what is to come at the 2024 WNBA All Star Game in Phoenix. 

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words 

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For countless months, Griner has executed a partnership with Bring Our Families Home to bring awareness to wrongful detainees across the globe. Griner chose to use her first public speaking appearance to give the organization a platform.  

BOFH was collectively founded by the families of wrongful detainees and American hostages. With the efforts of Griner, BOFH and supporters far and wide, the campaign aims to keep these family members top of mind for the White House and public

At the end of April, when the partnership was announced to the world, the organization revealed a mural by Phoenix fine arts artist Antoinette Cauley. Cauley’s excitement to be a part of the project stems from how she views Griner as a person near and dear to the hearts of Phoenicians and to support queer women.   

Griner revealed the banner with Neda Sharghi, former Bring Our Families Home Chair, to a sea full of BOFH supporters with local and national news outlets. In addition to Griner, the mural displayed 14 other wrongful detainees with most having to endure longer stints than Griner.  

After Griner removed the mural’s black covering, she embraced BOFH’s Sharghi and both recommitted to each other their dedication to bring everyone on the wall back home before the mural begins to fade. 

Heir Time  

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Griner has embedded her dynamic dunk into her game since her days as a Baylor Bear. In Waco, the 2012 NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player posted over 50 dunks. 

After experiencing many firsts, Griner took flight against the Los Angeles Sparks to throw down her first dunk of the season. The dunk was not the end of her display of athleticism, she ended the game with yet another double-double, 29 points and 11 rebounds ending in a Mercury win. 

The Mercury center jokingly said she thought she may have forgotten how to dunk but with everyone’s eyes glued to her performance, no one could ever tell. 

Hey Now, You’re An All-Star 

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Some say the best is yet to come, Phoenix would say the best is here and will be delivered to WNBA fans as the best WNBA All-Star Game the league has ever seen. 

In July, the organization announced they would be the host city for the 2024 WNBA All Star Game. At this year’s game, Griner joined Vegas’ A’ja Wilson in the passing of the torch. But the celebration did not stop there. 

If the All Stars already did not have something to get excited about, Griner’s goodie bags with custom t-shirts, branded tote bag, autographed picture from the one-and-only Scorch, beach towel, sunscreen and personal party invite surely got the job done. 

After giving players a taste of the Valley sun, Scorch insisted the only way to enter the press conference would be suspended in the air with sparklers to be the spark of the party.  

With generations of basketball in the building, city officials and Mercury alumni in the building, the stage is set.  

All that is missing in Phoenix is: you! 

The After Party  

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At Footprint Center, the three championship trophies are not the only gold in the building. Mercury wins turned into celebrations with gold chains, money signs, gold hats, hammers, and nails.  

The team’s flowers came in the form of gold chain and tough as nails awards. The money necklace award went to players with the best accuracy that night and who were also elite all-around teammates.  

The tough as nails award went to the player that showed the most resilience and commitment from tip-off to the final buzzer. The awards gave the team a chance to pat each other on the back, capitalize on their strengths and strike a pose to flex their bling bling.   

Wearing Pink for a Purpose  

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There is only one occasion that can make the Mercury turn in their purple and orange uniform for another color. On August 5th, the team asked the X-Factor to paint the arena pink for Rock the Pink

As a part of the group’s annual efforts to give to those whose lives have changed from experiencing breast cancer or watching a loved one along their fight, the Mercury hosted a live postgame auction with Mercury players, as members of the X-Factor bided on autographed merchandise.  

To commemorate the occasion, America’s first female speed painter created an entire mural of Griner at halftime with all proceeds going to the American Cancer Society. With an outstanding turn out from the X-Factor, the Mercury was able to raise $46,040 this season and $273,218 since the start of the Rock the Pink initiative back in 2014. 

VP x BG  

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Before Griner was announced at Arena with a standing ovation to follow, the Mercury received a very special visit and message from the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris.  

In addition to Mercury players, the WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert, Los Angeles Sparks and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association’s President Nneka Ogwumike gathered in the locker room to hear words of celebration and encouragement

Harris extended a large thank you to the group for their support of Griner and the group thanked Harris and the Biden administration for the lengths they went to bring back their beloved sister.  

Home Court Advantage  

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Every team keeps their fingers crossed in hopes of getting a home court advantage when it matters most. Luckily, for the Mercury, every time the X-Factor is in the building, the team has the best home court advantage in the WNBA.  

This season because of the X-Factor’s dedication and loyalty, the Mercury’s home sold out seven times. With the proper investments in building bonds beyond basketball, the organization has been able to be a top three attendance leader over the past decade. The Mercury held the number one spot in attendance in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2021

The X-Factor does more than show up. The support of each and every member was felt on the court this season causing every win this season to be at home except one. The best fans in the WNBA joined together and ended the season 13,206 strong. 

Guinness Book of Records  

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Throughout the season, breaking records came with ease. During the first quarter against the Connecticut Sun, the franchise broke the league record of most points scored in a single quarter with 45 points.   

Jefferson launched the ball from down the court and the swish from the basket married with the sound of the buzzer to push Phoenix into history.  

Phoenix attempted 17 shots with only one miss. The team’s quarter scoring percentage started at 94.1%. The Mercury left the Sun in a 23-point deficit as the quarter concluded with Taurasi and Griner both contributing nine points. 

Griner has embedded her dynamic dunk into her game since her days as a Baylor Bear. In Waco, the 2012 NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player posted over 50 dunks. 

After experiencing many firsts, Griner took flight against the Los Angeles Sparks to throw down her first dunk of the season. The dunk was not the end of her display of athleticism, she ended the game with yet another double-double, 29 points and 11 rebounds ending in a Mercury win. 

The Mercury center jokingly said she thought she may have forgotten how to dunk but with everyone’s eyes glued to her performance, no one could ever tell. 

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