The Sky is the Limit for WNBA’s Elena Delle Donne

By Ross Forman

Elena Delle Donne, the 2013 WNBA Rookie of the Year and All-Star for the Chicago Sky, receives “tons” of fan mail, dating back to her illustrious career at the University of Delaware, where she was National Player of the Year candidate in her junior and senior seasons.

Delle Donne was the second overall pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft – and she has one fan mail letter that has long stood out.

It came with a check for $20.

The collector told Delle Donne to use the funds to pay for postage in returning the autographed item – and then use the remaining money to buy herself a pizza.

Elena Delle Donne was named the 2013 WNBA Rookie of the Year and is one of the most popular players in the league. Photo courtesy Chicago Sky.

Elena Delle Donne was named the 2013 WNBA Rookie of the Year and is one of the most popular players in the league. Photo courtesy Chicago Sky.

“It was from one really sweet writer, who said to use the extra money for a pizza since I’m likely not always able to cook during the season,” she said, laughing.

For the record, Delle Donne did not cash the check.

Delle Donne played, and started, all 30 regular season and both playoff games for the Sky in 2013. She averaged 18 points and five rebounds, highlighted by a 32-point game last August against Minnesota. She grabbed 12 rebounds in a July game against Seattle.

Delle Donne 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.

“The Sky has been terrific, collecting my fan mail and then giving it to me. I sign it or do whatever is needed, and they always send it out,” she said.

Yes, Delle Donne replies to autograph-seekers.

“I think it’s important to reply,” she said. “But, I can’t even describe how much fan mail I receive – lots, perhaps a 15-inch high stack of letters every two months.

Elena Delle Donne is a willing signer for autograph fans, but she isn’t big on collecting herself, sticking to just a few trading cards. Ross Forman photo.

Elena Delle Donne is a willing signer for autograph fans, but she isn’t big on collecting herself, sticking to just a few trading cards. Ross Forman photo.

The autograph question
The 6-foot-5, blonde-haired Delle Donne was a gold medal winner at the 2011 World University Games in China. She receives a ton of autograph requests when out in the public, as well, she said. One such interaction took place in early February, when she was in New Orleans in conjunction with the NBA All-Star Game weekend.

“There are a lot of fans wanting autographs – on cards, photos, balls, etc. They’re waiting for you at the airport, the hotel, etc.,” Delle Donne said. “I try to sign as much as possible, but sometimes someone from the Sky has to be the mean guy and say, ‘No more,’ because I never like to say ‘No.’ ”

Delle Donne said some of the more unique autograph requests this past season included one fan who wanted her to sign a $20 bill. She rejected that request. Several young fans have wanted her to sign their skin – in Sharpie, no less. She has rejected those requests, too, “because, as I tell them, I know their parents will be so mad at me.”
Delle Donne said Connecticut has the most autograph-seeking fans in the WNBA – and last season she needed a bodyguard to help her get to the arena, away from the fans.
Delle Donne is not an autograph collector, mostly because, “I know what it’s like always getting autograph requests.”

She did not get any signatures herself at the All-Star Game in New Orleans.

“Plus, we all know each other, such as NBA stars Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, and others,” she said.

Delle Donne also now knows Michael. Yeah, Michael Jordan. They met in New Orleans, and she said the casual meeting was “huge.”

“He was the one person who I wanted to meet, and I got my photo taken with him,” she said.

No autograph, though.

“I don’t like to bug people for their autograph; it’s not my thing,” she said.

Delle Donne collected Jordan cards when she was younger, but not much more than that.

In New Orleans, it was Jordan who reached out to Delle Donne and said, “It is so nice to meet you.”

Delle Donne echoed his sentiments, saying, “It’s so great, just incredible to meet you; I followed your career like everyone else.”

Delle Donne has three cards: Her 2013 WNBA rookie card, one from Sports Illustrated and one from when she was in the High School All-American game.

Her cards, she said, “are cool, really great … it’s awesome to know that I’ve made it far enough in basketball to have a card; that’s pretty sweet.”

Delle Donne tagged her Sports Illustrated card as her favorite.

So what does Delle Donne collect?

Shoes, she said. Particularly, different Jordan shoes from Nike.

In her first year in the WNBA, Delle Donne averaged 18 points and five rebounds per game. Chicago Sky photo.

In her first year in the WNBA, Delle Donne averaged 18 points and five rebounds per game. Chicago Sky photo.

Coach’s perspective
Chicago Sky Head Coach and General Manager Pokey Chatman described Delle Donne as “The girl next door, and just a really good young lady.”

Chatman said that the first picture a fan tweeted of Delle Donne from her time in New Orleans was Delle Donne signing an autograph for a young fan in a hotel lobby. “I thought that was so fitting,” Chatman said.

Chatman was a standout player for the LSU Lady Tigers from 1987-91, who eventually became the school’s head coach (2004-07), leading the Lady Tigers to three consecutive NCAA Final Fours in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

This is her third season coaching the Sky, and the 2013 run included Chicago’s first-ever postseason appearance.

Chatman also is not an autograph collector.

“I don’t mean this in a bad way, but I don’t get autographs; I would just rather have a conversation than a piece of paper with someone’s name written on it.”

The Sky season opener is May 16, when Chicago plays host to Indiana at the Allstate Arena in suburban Rosemont. The WNBA regular season runs through mid-August.

Ross Forman is a freelance contributor to SCD He can be reached at Rossco814@aol.com.

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