Washington Mystics superstar Elena Delle Donne is concerned about entering the WNBA’s bubble at IMG Academy. While the WNBA offered an out for those with medical concerns, Delle Donne was denied paid leave despite a history of Lyme disease.
She took to The Players’ Tribune to voice her displeasure and explain why she wanted to sit out the 2020 season despite the WNBA’s doctors telling her it was OK.
Elena Delle Donne’s WNBA career
Delle Donne first made waves in high school. In a sport that doesn’t always elevate female athletes into the lexicon, she was already a household name to basketball fans when she committed to the University of Connecticut. There, she abruptly left the school after some family issues, including her sister’s cerebral palsy, required her to stay at home.
Delle Donne decided to stay close to home and enroll at the University of Delaware the following year. Interestingly enough, however, she bypassed basketball and became the star of the volleyball team before ultimately returning to the court in 2010. Delle Donne showed why she was so heavily sought after, taking the smaller basketball program to the top.
She battled Lyme disease and missed several games throughout her college career because of it, but as one of the nation’s most prominent players, that did not hinder her WNBA chances.
Welcome to the WNBA
Delle Donne dominated during her four years in college. In 2013, she became the No. 2 pick in the WNBA Draft by the Chicago Sky. There, she wasted no time showing why she was already a big name in basketball. The athlete averaged 18 points and five rebounds as a rookie.
Delle Donne was a star in a league looking for stars. Every year, she showed that she could do a little more. Her 2014 season was cut short due to Lyme Disease, and she played in only 16 games.
In 2015, Delle Donne was back in star form, averaging 23 points per game en-route to her first MVP award. On top of her disease, Delle Donne suffered from several injuries around this time. She’d already missed some time due to concussion. And her 2016 season was cut short after she injured her thumb in the playoffs. The Sky traded Delle Donne to the Washington Mystics before the 2017 free agency period.
Despite a slew of injuries, Delle Donne was a leader in the Mystics locker room. In 2019, she joined the 50-40-90 club and led the team, injuries and all, through the NBA Finals. There, the Mystics won the championship thanks in large part to Delle Donne’s triumphs.
Battling the odds
Delle Donne’s Lyme disease has been a part of her career since college. With everything she’s gone through, including injuries, flare-ups, and bypassing international play to help care for her sister, Delle Donne has seemingly earned the right to skip out on the 2020 season. She still can, but according to the WNBA, she will lose out on her pay if she does. Delle Donne sparred with the league about this, taking to Players’ Tribune to set them straight.
In the open letter to the WNBA, Delle Donne says she takes 64 pills a day to control her Lyme disease. With a virus like COVID-19, her already compromised immune system could lead to further problems. Her doctors recommended that she stay at home, but the league’s doctors told her that this wasn’t an option. This worries the two-time MVP.
“I’ve had a common cold that sent my immune system spiraling into a serious relapse,” Delle Donne writes. “I’ve relapsed off of a simple flu shot. There’s just been so many instances where I’ve contracted something that shouldn’t have been that big of a deal, but it blew my immune system out and turned into something scary.”
Delle Donne isn’t asking the league for special treatment. Instead, she asks them to respect her decision and let her stay at home despite what doctors say. She has already given so much to the league. In an uncertain world, she worries about potential problems that could arise if she enters the WNBA bubble.
Thus far, the WNBA has not relented. But with so many people on Delle Donne’s side, perhaps it will see the light.