Don’t call it a comeback.
Actually, check that. A comeback is precisely what you should call it.
After exiting Game 2 of the WNBA Finals with back spasms strong enough to require an MRI, there was fear that Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne might be done for the season. These fears were exacerbated when the Mystics later announced that the league’s MVP was suffering from a herniated disk.
Although Delle Donne, who is an out lesbian, immediately started receiving treatment, it was assumed that it’d be incredibly difficult for her to take the court again. And with the Mystics winless in games where she didn’t appear this year, things looked dire for her team’s championship aspirations as well.
Well, scratch all of that. In one of the most impressive performances of the year in any sport, Delle Donne didn’t even miss a single game, returning to the Finals for Game 3 and leading the Mystics to a 94-81 victory over the Connecticut Sun. All of this after receiving treatment on her back for the past five days.
As Delle Donne told the media after the win, “We didn’t really know if I was going to be able to go today because I hadn’t done anything until right before the game.” But once the game started, she did everything.
Two minutes into Game 3, Delle Donne sent a message to everyone watching that the MVP was back, hitting her first three-pointer of the day. It was the first of 13 points Delle Donne contributed to the Mystics win to go along with six rebounds and an assist.
And she did all of this while clad in a back support under her jersey as well as a knee brace and face mask from previous injuries. If Delle Donne doesn’t sign an endorsement deal with a medical supply company this offseason, she needs to get a new agent.
Throughout the contest, the Mystics had to alter their strategy for deploying Delle Donne to work around her back injury. Head coach Mike Thibault revealed, “The plan was let’s see how it goes, sub for her every four-to-five minutes to try to get her a breather.”
During the times when Delle Donne was subbed out, she left the bench to ride a stationary bike or walk around an adjacent corridor. Due to the nature of her injury, she could score 13 points against the best players in the world — but she couldn’t sit down.
Going into the game, most WNBA fans assumed that they’d seen the last of the MVP for the year. This group included the former Vice President of the United States....
Elena @De11eDonne is the pride of Delaware. Wishing her well as she recovers — we need more professional athletes like her sharing their support for inclusive sports. I'm looking forward to seeing her back on the court soon.— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 6, 2019
It turned out that Joe Biden was the only presidential candidate to send a get-well message to Delle Donne. However, this could’ve been because all of the others had already figured out that doing so was redundant as Biden posted his tweet at halftime.
Regardless, a shout out from the former VP was still part of the story behind one of the most amazing performances of the WNBA season. Thanks to Delle Donne’s herculean efforts, the Mystics now hold a 2-1 series lead and can close out the Finals with a victory in Connecticut Tuesday night.
It would also be Delle Donne’s first championship ring, earned in the most impressive way possible. As Mystics teammate Kristi Toliver proclaimed, “It means the world to us and the rest of the team for her to be out there today.”