When Elena Delle Donne’s knee buckled in the waning minutes in Game 2 of the Washington Mystics 2018 WNBA semifinals matchup against the Atlanta Dream, there was a deep-seeded fear that her season, and essentially the Mystics’, would come crashing to an end. The Mystics were attempting to reach their first-ever WNBA Finals, and the loss of their star player would have put that goal in major jeopardy.
Delle Donne was diagnosed with a bone bruise, and would return two games later to help push the Mystics past the Dream in five games. But she wasn’t fully healthy, and the Mystics were swept out of WNBA Finals by the Seattle Storm. After an offseason of rehab, Delle Donne is finally feeling like herself again.
We caught up with the 2015 WNBA MVP from the Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year Awards, where she was on hand to surprise Azzi Fudd of St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C. with the trophy. Delle Donne discussed her long road back, the upcoming 2019 season, and that controversial Saturday Night Live skit.
Dime: What’s it like getting to be a part of the Gatorade National Girl’s Basketball Player of the Year ceremony?
Delle Donne: It’s always just such a cool experience to be a part of it, because obviously it’s the best award to get. And to just know all it took to get to this moment, and then to be able to celebrate it, it’s really special for me. I love being a part of it, and I’m really grateful to Gatorade for letting me come do this year after year.
What was Azzi Fudd’s reaction when she first saw you?
It was awesome. We were all lined up at the end of the hallway. She was walking down the hallway and it was me and her teammates standing there. At first it was utter confusion, and then she got it and had a huge smile on her face and everyone was cheering. She was hugging her teammates and family members so it was really a great moment for her. I wrote her a little letter that hopefully she’ll be able to read when she gets home.
What’s the offseason been like for you after a tough WNBA Finals loss and having to deal with your injury?
I spent most of the offseason rehabbing with my knee injury, so I’m super excited that I’m finally back on the court now. I’m very rejuvenated and very excited for the season because I think we have a lot of good things ahead.
(The rehab) was long. But it’s over, but I feel strong and ready to go.
Were there times of frustration when the rehab was maybe going slower than you wanted it to?
There’s always frustration when things take longer than usually to get back. But for me, it was kind of good that it was still the offseason and it’s not like I’m sitting out missing games, which is by far the worst. It was important to take my time and push from there.
The SNL “Golddiggers” skit has gotten a lot of vocal pushback from both WNBA players and the sports community. Have you seen it, and if so, what were your thoughts?
It was really poor timing, especially with it being International Women’s Day a couple days prior. So, not a great look. Things are going to come out, and we’re in the process of working through a CBA that will hopefully better the business and get people to stop trolling.
And finally, Emily Fox, who plays for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, rocked your name on the back of her jersey when they took on England earlier this month. What was that like for you?
I was shocked. It was super humbling to be amongst all those incredible women that were worn on the backs of their jerseys. I had never met Emily before, so it was really cool to hear that her grandparents had lived in Delaware for many years and had shared stories with her of me, and she’s always kind of looked up to me through her career.