It hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, mainly because the WNBA doesn’t get a lot of attention, but Elena Delle Donne is having a season for the ages.
Delle Donne, the former Ursuline Academy and University of Delaware ace, has always been an elite player in the WNBA, but this year she’s taken it to another level, and it’s a level that no player in the league has ever reached before.
That’s why she was an easy choice for league MVP and now is in prime position to win a league championship.
After seven years in the league, many of them plagued by injuries, Elena Delle Donne is on top of the basketball world.
Delle Donne’s team, the Washington Mystics, clinched the best record in the league and will have a bye in the first round of the playoffs – the Mystics’ first playoff game in the best-of-five series will be on Tuesday night against a yet-to-be-determined opponent.
And the really good news is that you will probably be able to watch it on television, which isn’t true of almost all of the Mystics games unless you have the NBA Network, and not many people do. But the playoffs are being carried by ESPN2, and just about everybody has that channel.
That, of course, is a big problem with the WNBA – its lack of a real partnership with a major network. And Delle Donne could be a key figure in changing that, and that’s because, more than any other player, she has become the face of the league.
This week, Delle Donne was voted as the WNBA’s most valuable player, getting 12 of 14 votes from the media panel. ESPN and CBS Sports have also named as her as the league’s MVP. More proof of Delle Donne’s impact came when she was the leading vote-getter for the WNBA’s All-Star game.
More recently, Delle Donne accomplished something that no other WNBA player has ever done, and, in fact, only a handful of NBA players have done.
She finished the season as a member of the exclusive 50-40-90 club.
- She averaged 50 percent or better from the field (51 percent)
- 40 percent from beyond the three-point line (43 percent)
- 90 percent from the free-throw line (an unbelievable 97.4 percent – most players don’t shoot that well during the pregame lay-up drill)
Again, no WNBA player has ever done that, and just look at the shortlist of NBA players who have: Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Malcolm Brogden, who accomplished it this past NBA season.
Miller, Nash, Nowitzki, Durant and Curry all went on social media to congratulate Delle Donne on her milestone, as did Washington Wizards stars Bradley Beale and John Wall. And the Mystics put together a neat video clip to honor their superstar. Check it out here: https://twitter.com/WashMystics/status/1170867235570823169.
More superlatives this season for Delle Donne: She finished second in the league in scoring with 19.5 points per game (Phoenix’ Brittney Griner was first with 20.7 ppg), was fifth in rebounding (8.3) and, of course, first in free throw percentage.
But the most important thing Delle Donne has done this season is lead her team to the best record in the WNBA. For all of her individual accomplishments, the one thing that Delle Donne has failed to do is win a league championship.
It’s one thing to be the best player in the league. But when you’re also on the best team in the league, that puts you in a special category. And since those games will actually be on a national network that most people can actually watch, Delle Donne has a chance to elevate herself and her league with a long and strong playoff run.
There are other reasons why Delle Donne has become the face of the WNBA. She’s active in many charitable causes, and she understands her responsibilities as one of the spokeswomen of the league and women’s sports in general. Plus, she’s just a nice, down-to-earth person despite her wealth and fame and the pressures that come with that. The shy teenager has become a strong, confident woman as well as one of the best basketball players in the world. And that’s a pretty good combination.