"It was one of those games that's a blur. I just remember feeling very confident, whatever I put up was going to go in." -- Delle Donne, on her career-high 45 points in a 100-96 overtime win over the Atlanta Dream
The next big step from WNBA rookie of the year is being the league's MVP, right? Well, Chicago's Elena Delle Donne didn't win the awards back-to-back ... but almost.
After being the top rookie in 2013 and then leading her team to the WNBA Finals in 2014, Delle Donne was an even bigger tour de force in 2015, making her a near-unanimous -- 38 of 39 first-place votes -- choice for MVP.
No one's ever doubted Delle Donne's ability to score, which she did plenty of this past season, averaging a league-best 23.4 points per game. That included three 40-point performances, including one during the playoffs. But the other thing the Sky most wanted to see from her was better work on the boards. Her response: more than doubling her rebounding average of 2014 to grab 8.4 per game in 2015.
To put Delle Donne's season into a historical perspective, especially in regard to a player to whom she physically compares, there's this: Her player efficiency rating of 32.72 was the best in the WNBA since Lauren Jackson's 2006 (34.91) and 2007 (35.04) seasons in Seattle.
Anytime you're being compared to three-time MVP Jackson, you're in very elite territory.
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The IMPACT25 is espnW's annual list of the 25 athletes and influencers who have made the greatest impact for women in sports. Explore the 2015 list at espnW.com/IMPACT25.