Editorial Board | Chicago Tribune — When Chicago Sky forward Elena Delle Donne scored a career-high 45 points in a WNBA game in June, the people whose exercise consists of typing with their thumbs were not impressed.
“Yeah, against what competition?” one tweeted. “I could score 45 points on them.”
“I’d rather watch professional lawn-mowing,” said another.
“I’d rather watch paint dry.”
“Women aren’t capable of playing professional sports.”
The Sky answered with a YouTube video in which their 6-foot-5 star ad-libbed a little trash talk as she read the “mean tweets” aloud, a la Jimmy Kimmel. “Let’s play one-on-one,” she said. “We’ll see.”
So let’s review what the Sky’s No. 11 did this year while the trolls were watching paint dry:
She passed 1,500 career points, sank her 100th three-pointer, made more than 200 free throws. She grabbed the league scoring title with 725 points, an average of 23.4 per game, and won the Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award for the second year in a row.
She looks like a lock for league MVP as the Sky head into the playoffs Thursday against the Indiana Fever. (Update: Delle Donne was named the WNBA’s MVP on Wednesday.)
Oh, and she hit 95 percent of her free throws. Steve Nash, the best free-throw shooter the NBA has ever seen, had a 90.4 percent career average.
The rim is no lower in the WNBA. The stripe is no closer. Delle Donne is that good.
That’s no surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention. In July, after Delle Donne finished first in All-Star balloting for the second time, The New York Times declared her “the face of the WNBA.” Suddenly, that face was everywhere, as the national media discovered her inspirational storyline.
At Wilmington Ursuline Academy in Delaware, Delle Donne sank 80 free throws in a row — still a national high school record — and led her team to three state titles.
She passed up a basketball scholarship at the powerhouse University of Connecticut so she could stay close to home and her older sister, Lizzie, who is blind, deaf and autistic. Delle Donne grew up supporting her sister in Special Olympics events and is now a global ambassador for the program.
After a year as a walk-on for Delaware’s volleyball squad, Delle Donne returned to the basketball court, and lit it on fire. In 2013, she was the No. 2 pick in the WNBA draft. Named an All-Star in her first two seasons, she sat out both games — the first with a concussion, the second with a flare-up of Lyme disease. In her third season, she’s been unstoppable.
She’s also been busy off the court — making hospital visits, hosting basketball clinics, helping to raise money for the Lyme Research Alliance. A fan favorite in her adopted hometown, she threw out the first pitch at a White Sox game last week and owns a blue Great Dane named Wrigley.
She cheerfully poses for photos with fans after other players have headed to the locker room. You can see the pictures online, right there next to the snark from the folks who have never seen a WNBA game and don’t know what they’re missing — the ones who think it’s funny to tweet “where’s the oven?” after a woman seals an OT win with her 19th consecutive free throw.
“It’s in the kitchen,” Delle Donne quipped on YouTube. “We’re on the court. Get over it.”
She’ll let her game do the talking Thursday at the UIC Pavilion (and on ESPN2). Get loud, Chicago.