Elena Delle Donne excited for return to WNBA, Olympics and ‘normalcy’

Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images
Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images /

Elena Delle Donne recovering from two back surgeries is ready to embark on another run at a WNBA championship and Olympic gold medal.

WNBA training camp could not come soon enough for Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne. The offseason was an especially long Covid-induced time which also included multiple back surgeries, making her return to the court that much sweeter.

‘I am so excited,” Delle Donne told FanSided. “After not being able to play last summer, for this year to be coming, and the season right around the corner and Olympics coming up, I’m just super excited to be back in the gym again, be around my teammates. It’s been so refreshing to kind of get back to a little bit of normalcy.”

Delle Donne sat out the 2020 shortened pandemic WNBA season due to health concerns — she has dealt with chronic Lyme disease dating back to high school. The chance for back-to-back WNBA championships and back-to-back MVPs were not meant to be.

Elena Della Donne eager to compete for WNBA championship after long layoff

The return to the court will be a gradual one for Delle Donne to start the year. She will start on a minutes restriction to ease her surgically repaired back into basketball shape. Della Donne may need time to get back to MVP form early, but her team aspirations for the season remain the same.

“The goal is always a championship,” Delle Donne said. “If I’m going into a season with any other goal that’s probably when it’s time to hang up the shoes. We have a brand new team, it’s crazy to think how different our team is from when we won the championship in 2019 to now, but we’ve got a solid group of players and I can’t wait to start fitting all the pieces to the puzzle together.”

Delle Donne is sharing her life journey off the court with a YouTube series called “Beyond the Game.” Della Donne and her wife Amanda Clifton star along with their two dogs and friends who stop on by play Uno and drink wine.

“I’m trying to allow my fans and whoever is watching to see kind of a different side of me,” Delle Donne explained. “You can share as much as you can through social media, but to actually be recording so many things, its been kinda fun to share a different side. I hope people can get enjoyment out of it, some laughs, can make fun of me in the process. I’m here for all of it.”

That is quite the personality change from a young, shy, wanting-to-belong Delle Donne who was uncomfortable with her height and did not want to “stand out.” There was a doctor who wanted to give young Delle Donne a steroid injection to stunt her growth. Mom and Dad thankfully said no.

“It was a long process where I certainly needed the help of both of my parents to guide me through those moments where I was being bullied or just feeling super uncomfortable, but it made me who I am today and I wouldn’t give away even a centimeter of my height now,” Delle Donne said.

That 6-foot-6 height will be on display on the basketball court for a while longer. Despite her ongoing health challenges and physical grind, Delle Donne has no plans to walk away from the game like her Olympic teammate Sue Bird will do after Tokyo 2021.

“I like to push all those ideas back and enjoy the moment not making any final decisions like that,” Delle Donne said. “My uber competitiveness and drive with basketball if I am retired and I’m not good when I pick up that ball, I don’t think I’d be enjoying it. I’m just too competitive. I’ll just stick to woodworking after basketball.

The love of the game remains strong as does giving back for Della Donne.

Elena Delle Donne is here working with P&G who launched their Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 campaign inspired by the many Olympic and Paralympic athletes who are stepping up to take action for good, making a positive difference in their own communities and the world. These athletes are the focus in the latest chapter of the company’s worldwide “Lead with Love” consumer campaign, which unites P&G’s longstanding Citizenship efforts of Community Impact, Equality & Inclusion, and Environmental Sustainability.