The daughter of a real estate developer and his wife, Delle Donne inherited her 6'5" (1.96 m) height from both her parents—her father, who played college golf, is 6'6" (1.98 m), and her mother is 6'2" (1.88 m). Her childhood was marked by a struggle to come to terms with her unusual height. According to a 2016 ESPN story, her first memory was going on a shopping trip when she was three years old and hearing other shoppers tell her mother that an 8-year-old should not be using a pacifier. In third grade, her class was assigned to measure themselves using lengths of paper; she "was humiliated" when her paper extended well beyond those of her classmates. Within two years of that incident, a doctor wanted to start her on injections to stunt her growth; her mother refused. By the time she was in eighth grade, she was already 6'0" (1.83 m). Additionally, according to the same ESPN piece, Delle Donne had to come to terms with having "a body that could do a great many things that the body of her older sister, Lizzie, couldn't." Lizzie was born deaf and blind, is unable to speak, and also has cerebral palsy and autism. In another 2016 ESPN story, Delle Donne credits her mother with helping her accept her height: She's 6–2 and my dad is 6–6, so she understood. She was like, "I'm telling you, one day you are going to realize how beautiful your height is." She would always tell me how unique I am and say, "Why try to be like the rest of the pack? Be your own person."
High school career
Delle Donne gained national recognition as a high school basketball star at Ursuline Academy in Wilmington, Delaware. She led Ursuline to three straight Delaware State Championship titles and was ranked as the number-one overall high school recruit by Scout.com as well as a McDonald's All-American. She was the first and only student at Ursuline so far to score 2,000+ points during her high school career and also set the girls' high school national record for consecutive free throws made (80) in 2005–2006.
Delle Donne was also named a WBCA All-American. She participated in the 2007 WBCA High School All-America Game, where she scored 17 points, and earned MVP honors for the Red team.
She also participated in volleyball. Delle Donne won the volleyball DIAA state championship with Ursuline in 2007. She posted a season high 20 kills against Padua during a game involving the number one and two teams in the state.
Following an outstanding prep career during which she became the most highly touted women's basketball recruit since Candace Parker, Delle Donne received a basketball scholarship from the University of Connecticut. However, in early June 2008, Delle Donne abruptly dropped out of Connecticut's summer school program after just two days in Storrs. Delle Donne was very close to her family, especially her older sister, Lizzie, who has cerebral palsy and is blind and deaf. She was not ready to be separated from her family. Gene, Elena's brother and the middle child of the Delle Donne family, would say in a 2012 ESPN story on his younger sister: Her relationship with Lizzie is huge. It's so close. It's a big reason why she is such a homebody who came home from UConn, because she craves to be around Lizzie and to experience Lizzie grabbing her and sniffing her and just spend quality time with her. A week after leaving Connecticut, Delle Donne said by telephone from her home in Wilmington that she has "a lot of personal issues to fix. Only my family understands what's going on. Right now I am going to take a long personal break." She took a similar break prior to the 2007–08 season in high school.
On August 16, 2008, Delle Donne announced she would not accept the scholarship due to burnout, and instead decided to enroll at the University of Delaware and join their volleyball team as a walk-on. She played middle hitter at UD for the 2008–09 season. The 2008 Delaware Blue Hens finished their season with a record of 19–16. They were 9–5 in their conference (Colonial Athletic Association) and won the conference tournament. They earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament, but lost to Oregon in the first round. Delle Donne did not continue on the volleyball team in 2009, but joined the basketball team.
On June 2, 2009, Delle Donne announced that she would play basketball for the Blue Hens in the 2009–10 season as a redshirt freshman. In 2012, ESPN writer Graham Hays said about her return to the sport "it cannot be complete coincidence that it came the year Gene returned to Delaware and went to work for his dad's company." In a 2016 interview with ESPN, Delle Donne also recalled a trip she took during the summer of 2009 to the school that Lizzie was attending. While there, she met another woman at the school, a basketball fan who used a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy, who told her, "Elena, do everything you can with your abilities, just like we do."
Delle Donne had a very productive freshman season. She averaged 26.7 points per game, the third-highest of all Division I women's basketball players. She scored 54 points in a loss against James Madison on February 18, 2010, which was the highest single-game point total by any Division I female basketball player that season. She was named the CAA Rookie of the Week six times, and the player of the week once during 2009–10.
She was voted the CAA's "Player of the Year" and "Rookie of the Year" in women's basketball by CAA coaches, sports information directors and media. This was the first time a player had won both awards in one year since Old Dominion's Lucienne Berthieu did so in 1999. No men's player has ever won both awards in the same season.
In her sophomore season, the team started off well, but then Delle Donne began to develop flu-like symptoms. In a game against Penn State, she asked to be taken out of the game, something she had never done before. After many tests, the doctors finally diagnosed her with Lyme disease. She struggled the rest of the season, but she helped her team reach the finals of the conference tournament and an invitation to the Women's NIT.
As a junior, Delle Donne led the nation in scoring, finishing the season with an average of 28.1 points per game. Her prowess attracted many fans to the Blue Hens games, with attendance rising 250 percent from the previous year. On February 16, 2012, Delle Donne scored 42 points in a win over Hofstra, eclipsing the 2,000 point mark for her career. Delaware were the CAA champions, qualifying for the 2012 NCAA Women's Division I Basketball Tournament. Delle Donne scored 39 out of the Blue Hens' first 56 points in their first round victory over UALR. Delaware would lead by halftime against Kansas in the next game, but despite Delle Donne's 34 points, the Jayhawks still won.
During the 2012–13 season, Delle Donne again fought Lyme disease, missing four games due to the illness. Delle Donne returned on December 12 against Maryland and led the team with 19 points and 6 rebounds in a 69–53 loss. This game was the largest crowd (5,089) to ever to see a women's basketball game at the Bob Carpenter Center, the Blue Hens' homecourt.
Delle Donne led her team in scoring in 22 regular season games during her senior season, as well as in rebounds in 12 games. She scored more than 30 points on five occasions, leading her team to a 27–3 regular season record entering CAA conference tournament play.
After winning the CAA conference tournament, the Blue Hens were the #6 seed in their region of the 2013 NCAA Women's Division I Basketball Tournament. Delle Donne led them to victories over #11 West Virginia and #3 North Carolina. The Blue Hens then lost to #2 Kentucky, despite Delle Donne's 33 points.
Following her collegiate career, Delle Donne was selected second overall in the 2013 WNBA Draft by the Chicago Sky, a team that went 14–20 in the 2012 season. She was one of twelve players to be invited to the event. Delle Donne scored 22 points in her debut against fellow rookie Brittney Griner and the Phoenix Mercury. The Sky went on to win the game, 102–80. She led all players in votes for the 2013 WNBA All-Star Game, the first time a rookie has done so in league history. She missed the game, however, due to a concussion. After the All-Star break, Delle Donne returned to action, and continued to play at a high level. The Sky qualified for the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, earning the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Delle Donne was rewarded with the 2013 Rookie of the Year award.
The 2014 regular season had Delle Donne playing only 16 games due to a flare-up of Lyme disease, averaging less than 19 minutes in the final seven games. Eventually she rose up during the playoffs, helping the Sky defeat the Atlanta Dream in the first round, scoring 34 points and a game winning shot with 8.2 seconds left as the Sky erased a 17-point deficit with 8:12 remaining in the deciding game. However, Delle Donne was elbowed while going for a rebound in the Atlanta series, suffering a back injury that reduced her play time in the following round against the Indiana Fever. The Sky still got to the WNBA finals, where they lost to the Phoenix Mercury. Delle Donne played only 10 minutes in the first game, before taking medication to play 68 minutes and score 45 points over the final two games.
On September 16, 2015, Delle Donne was named the WNBA MVP for the 2015 season. She scored a league-high 23.4 points per game, shot a career-high 95% from the free throw line and was ranked third in rebounding. She received 38 of 39 first place votes. During the regular season, Delle Donne scored a career-high 45 points in an overtime win against the Atlanta Dream, while making a WNBA record, 19 consecutive free throws.
In the 2016 season, Delle Donne averaged 21.5 ppg helping the Sky to another playoff berth as they finished 18–16. With the WNBA's new playoff format in effect, the Sky were the #4 seed in the league with a bye to the second round. Unfortunately, Delle Donne had suffered an injury on her right thumb in a loss to the Washington Mystics. Delle Donne would have season-ending surgery that would also keep her out for the playoffs. Delle Donne played 28 games in the season before the injury. Without Delle Donne, the Sky still had a decent playoff run, advancing to the semifinals (the last round before the WNBA finals) where they lost 3–1 to the Los Angeles Sparks who would win the championship.
With Delle Donne approaching restricted free agent status and her rookie contract expiring, she was traded to the Washington Mystics in exchange for Stefanie Dolson, Kahleah Copper and the second overall pick in the 2017 WNBA draft just a couple days before the start of free agency.
On May 14, 2017, Delle Donne made her debut for the Mystics, scoring a team-high 26 points in an 89–74 win over the San Antonio Stars. On May 19, 2017, Delle Donne scored a season-high 27 points in a 99–89 loss to the Los Angeles Sparks. During Emma Meesseman's absence, Delle Donne would play outside her natural position as the starting power forward for the Mystics. On July 14, 2017, Delle Donne suffered a sprained right ankle in a game against Indiana Fever, which caused her to miss the 2017 WNBA All-Star Game. On July 25, 2017, Delle Donne scored a new season-high of 29 points along with 10 rebounds in an 85–76 win against the San Antonio Stars after returning from her ankle injury. On August 1, 2017, Delle Donne suffered a left thumb injury while playing against the Atlanta Dream and was ruled out for two weeks. On August 25, 2017, she returned and scored 15 points in a 74–66 loss to the New York Liberty. On September 1, 2017, Delle Donne scored a new season-high of 37 points along with a career-high 6 three-pointers in a 110–106 overtime win against the Seattle Storm as the Mystics secured a playoff berth as the #6 seed in the league with an 18–16 record. In the first round elimination game, the Mystics defeated the Dallas Wings 86–76, Delle Donne scored 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. They advanced to the second round elimination game, where they defeated the #3-seeded New York Liberty, 82–68, advancing to the semi-finals, making it the first time in franchise history where the Mystics have advanced past the second round. Delle Donne scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the win. In the semi-finals, the Mystics would be defeated by the Minnesota Lynx in a 3-game sweep.
In the 2018 season, with Meesseman sitting out the season to play for Team Belgium in the FIBA World Tournament, Delle Donne would play at the power forward position in the starting lineup. On June 13, 2018, Delle Donne scored a season-high 36 points in a 95–91 victory over the Connecticut Sun. After scoring 23 points in a 77–80 loss to the Atlanta Dream, Delle Donne became the fastest player in WNBA history to score 3,000 points, completing the feat in 148 games. The previous record was held by Diana Taurasi and Seimone Augustus, who both completed the feat in 151 games. Delle Donne would be voted into the 2018 WNBA All-Star Game, receiving her fifth all-star appearance. By the end of regular season, Delle Donne averaged 20.7 ppg. The Mystics were the number three seed with a 22–12 record, receiving a bye to the second round elimination game. The Mystics defeated the Los Angeles Sparks, 96–64, advancing to the semi-finals for the second year in a row. Delle Donne scored 19 points in the victory. In the semi-finals, the Mystics would face the number 2 seed Atlanta Dream, Delle Donne scored 32 points in Game one, lifing the Mystics to an 87–84 victory. The Mystics would end up winning the series in a hard-fought five-game series, advancing to the WNBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. However, the Mystics would get swept by the Storm in the Finals.
Unlike the vast majority of WNBA players, Delle Donne has not normally played overseas, choosing instead to spend the traditional basketball season in the U.S. to help care for her sister, Lizzie. Her first experience in an overseas league did not come until 2017, when she signed a short-term deal to play with the Chinese team Shanxi in that league's playoffs. Her stay in China prematurely ended when a flare-up of Lyme disease forced her to return to the U.S.
During her college days, Delle Donne was selected to the 2011 USA Basketball Team for the World University Games played August 12–23 in Shenzhen, China. Delle Donne led the team to a gold medal with a perfect 6–0 record and averaged 15.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists. In the Championship game won by the USA 101–66 over Taiwan, Delle Donne scored 18 points on 8–14 shooting and led the team with 11 rebounds and 8 assists.
On April 27, 2016, Delle Donne was named to the 2016 United States team that competed at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. During the U.S. team's eighth gold medal campaign, she was a role player, starting off the bench in seven games and sitting out the game against China due to an eye injury received during practice. The U.S. team would win the gold medal as they defeated Spain 101–72. Delle Donne is the sixth gold medalist hailing from Delaware.
Delle Donne was born in Wilmington, Delaware. Her parents are Ernie, a real estate developer, and Joanie. Her older brother, Gene, played college football as a tight end, first at Duke, then at Middle Tennessee. After he graduated from Middle Tennessee in 2009, he returned to Delaware to work in their father's company. Her older sister, Elizabeth (Lizzie), is blind, deaf, autistic and has cerebral palsy. While most WNBA players use the offseason to play for other leagues overseas, Delle Donne normally uses it to care for Lizzie.
In 2008, during her senior year in high school, Delle Donne was diagnosed with Lyme disease after being bitten by an infected tick on the property of her family's home in Delaware. Delle Donne has stated that she takes "around 50 supplements a day" and maintains healthy eating to combat this disease.
In February 2014, Delle Donne was named a Special Olympics Global Ambassador. She also played in the 3rd annual NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified Basketball Game during All-Star weekend, alongside Special Olympics athletes, NBA legends and current WNBA and NBA players. Delle Donne plans to create The Elena Delle Donne Charitable Foundation, which will combine initiatives for both the Special Olympics and Lyme disease awareness.
Delle Donne announced her engagement to her longtime girlfriend Amanda Clifton in an August 2016 issue of Vogue. On November 3, 2017, Delle Donne and Clifton married.
Since being drafted in the WNBA, Delle Donne has signed multiple endorsement deals with different companies. In 2013, Delle Donne signed endorsement deals with Nike and DuPont, a science company which is based in her hometown Wilmington, Delaware. In 2015, Delle Donne signed a representation agreement with Octagon.
|Group stage||Senegal||121 - 56|
|Spain||103 - 63|
|Serbia||110 - 84|
|Canada||81 - 51|
|China||105 - 62|
|Quarterfinal||Japan||110 - 64|
|Semifinal||France||86 - 67|
|Final||Spain||101 - 72|
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game||RPG||Rebounds per game|
|APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game||BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game|
|TO||Turnovers per game||FG%||Field-goal percentage||3P%||3-point field-goal percentage||FT%||Free-throw percentage|
|Bold||Career high||League leader|
|Career||4 years, 1 team||114||111||34.9||.481||.409||.910||8.9||1.9||1.0||2.3||1.8||26.7|
WNBA regular season
|Career||5 years, 2 teams||27||27||33.3||.462||.380||.966||6.4||2.1||0.4||1.2||18.6|
Awards and honors
- 2004 – USA Today Freshman All-America, Nike All-America Camp, Street & Smith Preseason All-America Honorable Mention, All-State First Team
- 2005 – Scut/FCP SUPER SIX, Parade All-America Fourth Team, EA Sports All-America, Gatorade Delaware Player of the Year, DSBA Delaware Player of the Year, Street & Smith All-American Third Team, All-State First Team 2005
- 2006 – Slam Magazine All-American First Team, Women's Basketball Magazine All-American First Team, Parade All-American First Team, Sports Illustrated All-American Second Team, EA Sports All-American, USA Today All-American Third Team, Gatorade State Player of the Year, All-State First Team 2006
- 2007 – Parade All-American Third Team, Gatorade State Player of the Year, First-ever cover subject of GIRL magazine
- 2008 – McDonald's All-American Team, USA Today National Player of the Year and First Team All-America, Naismith Prep Player of the Year, Gatorade National Player of the Year, EA Sports Player of the Year, Delaware Athlete of the Year
- 2010 – AP All-American Honorable Mention, CAA Player of the Year, CAA All-Defensive Team, CAA All-Rookie Team, CAA All-Tournament Team, Delaware Athlete of the Year
- 2011 – AP and WBCA All-American Third Team, All-CAA First Team, CAA All-Tournament Team
- 2012 – AP, WBCA, Wooden, and USBWA All-American First Team,CAA Player of the Year, CAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player, Delaware Athlete of the Year
- 2013 – AP, WBCA, Wooden, and USBWA All-American First Team, CAA Player of the Year, CAA All-Defensive Team, CAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player, UD Outstanding Female Senior Athlete, WNBA Rookie of the Year, All-WNBA Second Team
- 2013 – Winner of the Honda Sports Award for basketball
- 2015 – WNBA Most Valuable Player, All-WNBA First Team, scoring champion
- 2016 – Nominee for ESPYS Best Female Athlete award
- 2010 – CAA All-Academic First Team
- 2011 – CAA All-Academic First Team
- 2012 – Academic All-America Team, CAA Scholar-Athlete of the Year, CAA All-Academic First Team
- 2013 – Academic All-America Team, Senior CLASS Award, CAA Scholar-Athlete of the Year, CAA All-Academic First Team
- 2014 – NCAA Today's Top 10 Award
For their first match of March 2019, the women of the United States women's national soccer team each wore a jersey with the name of a woman they were honoring on the back; Emily Fox chose the name of Delle Donne.