Your 2019 WNBA MVP: Elena Delle Donne
WASHINGTON D.C. – It is no surprise that Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne is the 2019 WNBA Most Valuable Player. This is the second MVP honor for Delle Donne. She picked up the first in 2015 with the Chicago Sky, the team that drafted her as the second overall pick in 2013. She is the first player to earn the league’s top award with two different teams.
Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner finished second in the MVP voting while Connecticut Sun forward/center Jonquel Jones was third, followed by Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike and Seattle Storm forward Natasha Howard.
Delle Donne didn’t enter the 2019 season with a fresh start. She re-injured her left knee, an injury sustained during the 2019 playoffs against the Atlanta Dream August 28. She started her 2019 season one game late against the Dream June 1.
The seven-time Eastern Conference Player of the Week performed in 13 games straight before breaking her nose against the Los Angeles Sparks July 7, sitting out two games afterward. Washington went cold during the its run without her.
Donning a clear face mask to hold her healing nose in place, Delle Donne dominated the league. She recorded six of her nine double-doubles post-nasal injury. On July 30, Delle Donne marked her season high of 33 points against the No. 8 playoff seed Phoenix Mercury. Washington went 16-18 after her return and grabbed the number one seed in the playoffs with her help. The 2019 MVP contributed 19.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.
Her regular season highlight earned her admittance into the 50-40-90 club. Delle Donne averaged 51% from the field, 43% from three-point range and 97% from the free throw line, just missing just three attempts.
She became the first WNBA player to join the eight-man, ultra elite club, joining talents like Reggie Miller, Dirk Nowitzski, and Steve Nash who regained entry four times throughout his 18-year career.
Washington’s dedicated fan base appreciate Delle Donne’s success, showing her love on bobblehead night and with “EDD 4 MVP” cheer cards that decorated the stands of Entertainment and Sports Arena.
Stewart Small, a superfan since the Mystics’ inception in 1998, praised Delle Donne from her style of play to her active role in re-growing a successful brand in Washington.
“She’s an absolute friendly person,” Small said. “She’s saying ‘I’m not just here to get mine, I want to be apart of this community and help this community grow.’ She’s a very approachable person and she really is a role model that not only young girls can follow but young boys can look up to as well.”
Attendance, considering size comparison between Capital One Arena and Entertainment Sports Arena, grew exceptionally well since Delle Donne’s return from the Midwest to the East coast. Team success is a key factor in fan attendance but an opportunity to watch one of the best forwards perform is another worthwhile reason to watch one of Washington’s successful sports clubs.
“One of the things I talked to my team about is relish in the fact that people are paying attention to us,” Mystics head coach Thibault said. “Elena brings a lot of that. It’s one of those things that since she came here, more fans pay attention, media obviously does.”
It’s the reason 13 of Washington’s 26 regular-season wins are by 20 points or more and they average 21 assists per game, both franchise and league records this season. While teams prepare defensive sets against one of the best offenses in both WNBA and NBA history, the necessary attention Delle Donne receives only opens up the floor for teammates.
They also look to Delle Donne for leadership and jokes (teammate Shatori Walker-Kimbrough calls Delle Donne “daughter”). Her on-court leadership continued this season.
“Every team has a couple players that are the glue for the team,” Thibault said. “In Seattle it’s Sue [Bird]. For us, it’s Elena. You have to have stars to win in pro basketball. You also need stars can that lead, and players rally around and that’s what she is.”
Delle Donne’s most vocal MVP supporters are her teammates. They experienced the valuable asset Delle Donne is firsthand, playing through her in double teams and letting the MVP shine in her element, scoring on every level of the floor and rebounding. You can hear loud goat noises, a vocal call to the “Greatest of All Time” acronym, from the locker room during Delle Donne’s postgame interviews.
It’s probably teammate and guard Natasha Cloud, who proudly claimed herself as Delle Donne’s “MVP campaign manager.” In her pseudo position, she led the season finale 4,200 sellout crowd with MVP chants, holding a supersized version of Delle Donne’s team portrait in one hand and her nose mask in the air.
Cloud had the option to sign with New York Liberty. Thibault matched New York’s offer in the offseason. Re-signed by the Mystics, Cloud was ready to help Delle Donne try to win the WNBA title. That goal is getting closer as Washington’s off-court chemistry helps facilitate their successful, high powered offense.
“You see it in the way we play so unselfishly for each other,” Cloud said. “It’s a direct correlation of our relationships off the court. I’m going to keep campaigning for her but there’s no campaign.”
September continues to be a great month for the 2019 MVP. Delle Donne celebrated being top seed, player of the week, and her 30th birthday on September 5, but there’s one more accomplishment on her list before the parties can begin, though they did that on her father’s yacht where Thibault showcased his dance moves. Even with her rich career, Delle Donne has yet to hoist the WNBA Championship Trophy at the end of the season. Thibault hasn’t either.
Delle Donne recalled the team remembering 2018 WNBA Champions the Seattle Storm being “quicker, better and a step ahead.”
Now Washington has evolved into a faster, more efficient version for a better shot at claiming the title and bringing their “Run it Back” mantra to life.
“We know how hard it is to get back there, and, in that moment, how hard it was to compete against a Seattle team that was really great,” Delle Donne said. “It drove us to be better.”
When asked in late summer what she wanted as the “perfect gift” for her 30th birthday and seventh season in the WNBA, Delle Donne replied with an immediate answer, as many would imagine.
“I can get it in about a month and a half, a WNBA Championship.”
In honor of being named the MVP, Delle Donne will receive $15,000 and a specially designed trophy by Tiffany & Co.
Previous MVP Winners
|1997||Cynthia Cooper||Guard||Houston Comets|
|1998||Cynthia Cooper||Guard||Houston Comets|
|1999||Yolanda Griffith||Center||Sacramento Monarchs|
|2000||Sheryl Swoopes||Guard/Forward||Houston Comets|
|2001||Lisa Leslie||Center||Los Angeles Sparks|
|2002||Sheryl Swoopes||Guard/Forward||Houston Comets|
|2003||Lauren Jackson||Forward/Center||Seattle Storm|
|2004||Lisa Leslie||Center||Los Angeles Sparks|
|2005||Sheryl Swoopes||Guard/Forward||Houston Comets|
|2006||Lisa Leslie||Center||Los Angeles Sparks|
|2007||Lauren Jackson||Forward/Center||Seattle Storm|
|2008||Candace Parker||Forward||Los Angeles Sparks|
|2009||Diana Taurasi||Guard||Phoenix Mercury|
|2010||Lauren Jackson||Forward/Center||Seattle Storm|
|2011||Tamika Catchings||Forward||Indiana Fever|
|2012||Tina Charles||Center||Connecticut Sun|
|2013||Candace Parker||Forward||Los Angeles Sparks|
|2014||Maya Moore||Forward||Minnesota Lynx|
|2015||Elena Delle Donne||Forward||Chicago Sky|
|2016||Nneka Ogwumike||Forward||Los Angeles Sparks|
|2017||Sylvia Fowles||Center||Minnesota Lynx|
|2018||Breanna Stewart||Forward||Seattle Storm|