Reflections from the MVP
WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert surprised Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne with a phone call. “I wanted to be the first to officially congratulate you,” Engelbert said. “You are the 2019 WNBA Most Valuable Player, so congratulations! What a year!”
Engelbert may have surprised Delle Donne with the phone call, but the honor was widely expected to go to Delle Donne. She had a historic individual season while also leading the Mystics to a 26-8 regular season record and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. She averaged 19.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.3 blocks per game, becoming the first player in WNBA history to shoot 50% from the field, 40% from 3-point range, and 90% at the free throw line over an entire season. Delle Donne is just the sixth player to win more than one MVP award and the first to do it with two different teams; she also won the award in 2015 as a member of the Chicago Sky.
Engelbert presented Delle Donne with the MVP trophy at a press conference ahead of Thursday’s Game 2 of the WNBA semifinals.
Engelbert said, “I have only known Elena Delle Donne for a short time, but I can tell you that I’m extremely impressed with her leadership and impact … we’re very fortunate to have her in the league. Elena is an exceptional athlete, as you all already know, who leads with passion, tenacity, and strength. Her accolades and stats stand for themselves.”
Delle Donne thanked her teammates, her coaches, and the Mystics organization for creating an environment in which she feels both supported and challenged to perform at her best.
“This honor is phenomenal and I’m super humbled by it and proud,” Delle Donne said at a pregame press conference Thursday night. “It’s always incredible when you know something you’ve done will go down in history, and it’s even more inspiring to know that there’s little girls looking up to me that maybe are dreaming of doing the same or doing more.” At the same time, Delle Donne feels she and her team have more to accomplish this season, and it was clear that she would turn her attention to the upcoming game as soon as the press conference ended. In her opening statement, she even joked that she could give a longer speech about the scouting report for Mystics’ opponent, the Las Vegas Aces, than about winning the league’s premier individual award.
And Delle Donne didn’t just win the award; she ran away with it. She received 41 of 43 first-place votes from the voting panel, which is comprised of sportswriters and broadcasters around the country. Chicago point guard Courtney Vandersloot received the other two first-place votes and finished sixth. Brittney Griner (Phoenix), Jonquel Jones (Connecticut), Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles), and Natasha Howard (Seattle) rounded out the top five.
As to why Delle Donne didn’t capture all 43 votes, her teammate, Natasha Cloud, had a simple explanation.
“Bias,” Cloud told High PosT Hoops. “How do you not unanimously name Elena Delle Donne, the first player ever in the WNBA to [shoot] 50-40-90, who shoots as efficient as she does, who upped her defense, who upped her rebounds. She’s up, she upgraded all facets of the box score. So, you know, there is bias in the WNBA. So people were laughing when I was campaigning, but I was just making sure everyone knew who the real MVP was.”
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