Each month, one of our high school interns will research articles written by or about women’s sports. We see our Sports Round Ups as a gathering place of women sports news and voices. Our mission is to spread awareness of women’s voices in the sporting field, to help tell the stories of our community, and to inspire her own understanding and voice. Check out our Sports Round Up series.
By Allie Morrison, Editorial Intern
People are not often exposed to WNBA players; even girls’ basketball players often cannot tell you who Candace Parker and Sue Bird are. Regardless, I am very proud when I walk down the street or into the gym wearing my Elena Delle Donne sweatshirt. When Delle Donne was drafted into the WNBA in 2013 as the second overall pick, I did not even know who she was. Her name was not as recognizable as Britney Griner’s or Skylar Diggins’s because despite having many big-name Division I offers—and even taking one and playing at UConn for 48 hours—Delle Donne ended up going back close to home. At the University of Delaware, she walked on as a volleyball player and took care of her sister, who was born blind and deaf, and suffers from autism and cerebral palsy. Recently, she wrote a powerful essay in The Player’s Tribune about her sister, Lizzie.
“Elena Delle Donne’s demeanor and response told girls like me not to back down against sexism and not to let anyone with a social media account get to their head.” – Allie Morrison
After a year of volleyball, Elena realized that she did love basketball, and did not want to play it at UConn or any other big-time basketball school because she hated being away from her family. She discovered that she could enjoy basketball and her life. She wrote, “Spend time with your family and try to spend time doing things that you enjoy doing other than basketball.” She then dominated Delaware basketball and led her team to the NCAA Tournament. So far, in her two seasons as a professional, she has won Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, and has turned the Chicago Sky into a consistent playoff contender. She often credits her family for her success. She wrote, “I could do whatever I wanted as a girl, whatever my brother did. I could play against the boys and achieve whatever they did.” Delle Donne is an incredible player, but there is something distinguishably special about her game and her demeanor on and off the court. As the article shows, Delle Donne demonstrates that basketball players can be more than just the game. She is a sister, an activist, and so much more.
On the court, Delle Donne dominates with versatility, intelligence, and a killer step-back. She is the perfect blend of a guard with post skills. She knows how to utilize her awesome height (6’5) and her refined footwork. Not only can she finish at the rim, but she gets to the free throw line consistently and nails them. Last year she averaged 95% from the line, which was the best average in professional basketball, as The Wall Street Journal breaks down Delle Donne’s journey as a free throw artist. Since the Chicago Sky drafted Delle Donne, they have gone from one of the worst teams in the league to getting to the first round of the playoffs in 2013, the Eastern Conference Finals in 2014, and again making it to the first round in 2015.
Delle Donne’s dominance on the court is just part of her influence off the court. During her two years in the WNBA she has become an advocate for women and for the disabled. She openly combats stereotypes and acts as a role model for girls. After a historic game last season where Elena scored 45 points at home against the Atlanta Dream, someone mockingly tweeted “I could score 45 points on them.” Delle Donne responded with “Let’s play one on one, we’ll see.” And when confronted with outright sexism in the tweet, She laughed and replied “In the kitchen, we’re on the court, get over it.” During the press conference where she read and responded to sexist tweets about the WNBA, Delle Donne not only brought attention to an issue in our society, but her demeanor and response told girls like me not to back down against sexism and not to let anyone with a social media account get to their head.
All girl athletes need role models, and Delle Donne has made an incredible opportunity for herself to empower the next generation. With the popularity of her own clothing line, Nike endorsement and website, girl athletes can wear her gear, look good, and remind themselves of what they are working for. Going to a game and watching Delle Donne is the kind of experience that makes you want to go home and hit the gym right away. It is her game, her attitude, and her involvement that make her so special. I’m glad that we have role models like her today.