Throughout the summer, NBC is featuring the stories of Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls from all fifty states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico as they strive to represent their country at the Paris 2024 Games. These stories highlight their journey to the biggest stage in their respective sports and the impact their hometowns and communities have had on their development. For more stories on these athletes preparing for Paris in 2024, visit NBCSports.com/hometownhopefuls.
Elena Delle Donne, a basketball player in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), experienced a stark difference in the support for women’s sports compared to men’s sports when she entered the league. Coming from Delaware, where her high school team sold out games and her college’s women’s basketball team outdrew the men’s team, she felt spoiled by the strong backing. However, when she left Delaware in 2013 to join the Chicago Sky as the second overall draft pick, she realized this level of support was not universal. Despite her success in the WNBA, including being named Rookie of the Year in 2013 and MVP in 2015, she longed to be closer to home and was traded to the Washington Mystics in 2017.
Being closer to home allows Delle Donne to visit her favorite spots in Wilmington, Delaware, such as Grotto Pizza and Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop, as well as enjoy the beaches. However, she has had limited time for leisure activities this summer due to her intense recovery and preparation for upcoming basketball events. Having undergone back surgeries and battled various injuries over the past three years, Delle Donne has been determined to return to peak performance on the court. Despite doubting her ability to play basketball again during her recovery, she has made significant progress and was named a WNBA All Star in 2023. Currently, she is focused on the upcoming WNBA playoffs and is also participating in Olympic training camps with Team USA, setting her sights on competing in the Paris 2024 Games.
Reflecting on her first Olympics in 2016, Delle Donne acknowledges that she had assumed she would participate in every Olympics and always be in good health. However, she was inspired by the experience of being around athletes from around the world. Knowing what it takes to be part of the Olympic team, she is eager to secure her spot and return to the highest level of basketball. Despite playing in different cities, Delle Donne’s loyal fans from Delaware continue to support her. Her love for the game has been a constant source of motivation throughout her recovery journey and future endeavors.