From most of world’s perspective DC is a tough place to be a sports fan. It seems as though every year there is some sort of heartbreak. This year it was the fact that neither Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals, nor John Wall and the Wizards, were able to reach a Final Four in their respective leagues. Last year it was that Bryce Harper and the Nationals couldn’t make it to the World Series. The Redskins are going to the Super Bowl every year (at least that’s what their die-hard fans say in the preseason anyway) and somehow they don’t ever come close.
But this year legitimately could be different for DC sports fans if they know where to look. This year could be the year that they get their big win. But they just have to know where to place their bets. And for that they need to look in an unusual place. They need to find the dark horse in the race – but the one they all should be rooting for: Elena Delle Donne.
Most people have never heard of her. Sadly, that’s because most people do not watch women’s sports. And that is a shame really, because she is a world-class athlete who actually wants to play for this city, and has the pedigree and determination to deliver DC sports fans a title. But the question remains, ‘Will DC take notice?’
There are a lot of reasons that people should tune in or buy a ticket to watch Delle Donne and the Washington Mystics play this season – it’s not a bad way to spend an evening, it’s a cheap date idea, it’s guaranteed to be a pretty solid game, or the mere fact that they have a real shot at winning a championship. But Delle Donne gives DC fans three things that they don’t generally get day-in and day-out from any of their other beloved players or teams – a new level of dedication, heart, and hope.
Elena Delle Donne is a beast at basketball. Like, freakishly good. In 2015 she was the WNBA MVP and scoring champion, she is an Olympic Gold Medalist, and has a career average free throw percentage of over 90%. Like I said, freakishly good…and freakishly dedicated to her craft. Let me put it in perspective for you – LeBron James’ FT% is sitting at about 74% for a career average. Yes, when it comes to a tie ball game with no time left on the clock and one player shooting a free throw to win it, I’m not picking the best player in the NBA to take it. I’m picking this girl. Hands down.
Delle Donne is a master at her craft. In fact, she is so good, her new coach at Washington, Mike Thibault, stated after their season opener last Sunday that he has a rule that if any of the players on the team violate the line while Delle Donne is shooting a free throw then that player gets fined $25. Because why throw away free points? And with regards to Delle Donne, the phrase ‘free’ throw really does take on a new meaning.
It’s easy to cheer for a player like that. The player that comes in to work everyday, does her job to the best of her ability, and leaves it all on the court. It’s even easier when she dominates her opponents. And that is what DC needs – someone who is dedicated to their technique at such a high level that people are shocked when there is a mistake. Let’s face it, DC has never had that before. In fact, most fans expect them to drop the ball at the one-yard line. They expect the crumble at the finish, or the win slipping through their hands at the last moment. Because that is always what seems to happen in DC.
But now DC has a hero in the shape of a 6’5 shooting guard that doesn’t have that pedigree – doesn’t have that mindset. She has the mindset of a winner and the mindset of someone who knows what she wants and goes after it. And that thing that she wants is us – Washington DC.
In fact, Delle Donne requested a trade from the Chicago Sky in the previous off-season to come play here. Even though the Mystics have never won a championship before. And even though DC can be a rather unforgiving place to play in general. She wanted to be here. She wanted to play for this team and for Coach Thibault and beside Emma Meesseman, the league leader last season in three-pointer field goal percentage (EDD being a close second at 42.6% versus Emma’s 44.8%). To put it simply, she wanted to dominate with this offensive scheme.
But in addition to a great team and a great city, she wanted to be close to family. Especially close to her sister, Lizzie, who has cerebral palsy and happens to be blind and deaf. It’s part of the reason she walked out on her scholarship to play at UConn and instead went back to her home in Delaware to start her NCAA Basketball career. And it’s part of the reason that DC gets a champion athlete – because this athlete has heart and she wants to keep that heart close to home. Family is important to her. And if you’re asking me, she has her priorities right. She is aware that the only meaningful communication she can have with her sister is if she is physically there. She is aware that physical proximity to her support net will help her play better basketball on the court, and help her unwind off of it. Why wouldn’t a DC sports fan want to back someone like that?
I should leave you with that. That should be enough for you to go out and buy a ticket to see this girl completely kill it from the line and be a force beyond the arc. But I am feeling a bit generous today and just in case there are still a few doubters out there I will give you one more reason to watch her and the Mystics this season.
It’s something that every sports fan has deep in their heart, but sometimes it is hard for the fans within the DC metro area to find. After years of close calls and ‘just not good enough’ DC has been given a gift. A gift that proved in her first game playing for this city that she could handle the pressure – she scored a team-high 24 points and went 8 of 9 from the line. But how many people living within the DMV actually knew that?
DC has been given greatness, but if they don’t look they will miss it. Elena Delle Donne is the player that can give you hope. She is the player that can give you heart. And she is player that wanted you, DC (and her family, and her friends, and her sister). So what are you going to give her back? Maybe a bit of support? A bit of love?
She can be your champion, DC. She can carry this city on her back and get you a title. But you have to want her to be your champion. Otherwise her greatness will simply pass you by. And that would be the real tragedy.
You can catch EDD and the Washington Mystics this Friday at 10:30 PM take on the Los Angeles Sparks – tune in and check it out!