Report: Elena Delle Donne taking break from basketball, won't sign 1-year deal with Mystics

Delle Donne hasn't played a full season since winning a title in 2019

Elena Delle Donne

Elena Delle Donne is taking a break from basketball.

Delle Donne does not intend to sign a one-year super max offer the Washington Mystics presented to her in free agency, ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reported on Wednesday night. Delle Donne will instead step away from the game completely. It's unclear if or when she will return to the sport.

The Mystics extended a core qualifying offer to Delle Donne earlier this month that requires the star 6-foot-5 forward to sign only with them. The base offer guarantees a one-year, super max deal ($241,984), but the terms can be negotiated. The sides can also agree to a sign-and-trade, allowing Delle Donne to choose her landing spot since core players have veto rights. The franchise could then receive an asset in return, rather than letting a star walk.

Delle Donne, 34, is a two-time MVP and one of the most efficient shooters in the league. She is the only WNBA player to post a 50/40/90 mark that requires shooting 50% overall, 40% from 3 and 90% from the free throw line. She’s a 47/39/94 shooter over her 10-year career.

Health is the largest concern for Delle Donne and the team. She underwent consecutive back surgeries after winning the 2019 WNBA championship with herniated discs in her back, opted out of the 2020 season and played only 52 minutes over three games in 2021. She had to learn how to walk, run and sit in a new way to lessen strain on her back.

In 2022, the Mystics franchise and Delle Donne focused on load management and would often keep her home for any back-to-backs or rough travel trips since WNBA teams fly commercially. Less leg room and a smaller space meant more tension on her back and limbs. She said ahead of last season she had the greatest offseason of her career and did not plan to miss games. But she was out nearly all of July with an ankle injury.

Delle Donne speaks often of the importance of family and in 2017 asked for a trade from the Chicago Sky, who drafted her No. 2 in 2013, to be closer to her family in Delaware. The seven-time All-Star is averaging 19.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.4 blocks per game over a 10-year career. She led the league in turnover percentage in six seasons. Her 93.7 career free throw percentage and 123.1 career offensive rating both rank tops in league history.

If Delle Donne opts to sit out the entire 2024 season, the Mystics could place the same core designation on her once again next offseason.