FIBA World Cup: Team USA won’t wear No. 15 to honor Brittney Griner

Brittney Griner has always worn No. 15 for USA Basketball. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Brittney Griner might not be with Team USA in Australia, but her presence – and absence – will still be felt by her teammates at the FIBA World Cup.

When jersey numbers were announced, USA Basketball revealed that no player on the team will wear Griner’s No. 15. Instead, they will use Nos. 4-14 as well as No. 16, which Brionna Jones will wear.

“The best way to honor her was to not give her number out,” USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley told the Associated Press. “I put it to our staff and they liked the idea. Our numbering system is very sacred to us and we’ve only used four to 15 in the history of our organization. Now we’re giving out 16 because we don’t want to give away Brittney’s 15 since she would have been here. It’s a small way to pay homage to her and that we’re thinking of her.”

One of the leading scorers for Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics, Griner has been wrongfully detained in Russia since February. In August, she was sentenced to nine and a half years in a Russian penal colony on drug charges.

“No. 15 is [Brittney Griner’s]. That’s her number,” added Breanna Stewart. “And we’re waiting for her to get back to have it back.”

“To not have BG here, obviously, it’s an irreplaceable void,” Stewart continued. “We’re really just hoping that she’s going to be home as soon as possible, hoping that she’s doing as good as she can be under the circumstances, but knowing that she has such a big role in USA Basketball from how she dominates on the court and is a caring human being off the court.

“It’s tough because you have these moments where it’s like, ‘She should be here, she would be here’ and also at the same time, it’s bigger than basketball. Having her be home safe and healthy and back with her family is the No. 1 priority.”

The U.S. State Department is continuing to work to bring Griner home, with President Joe Biden meeting with Griner’s wife Cherelle last Friday.

“She really has [been a stalwart of USA Basketball] and that’s something our players have dealt with the entirety of the season,” coach Cheryl Reeve said of Griner. “It’s on their minds every day. It’s heavy. It’s really, really heavy, especially as we participate in this USA Basketball competition. She’s such a big part of many of our lives. And so it’s challenging.”