The Female LeBron James Is Returning

For a few years in high school, Elena Della Donne was the Basketball Madonna. ↵

↵ESPN called her the LeBron James of women's high school basketball. The St. Louis Dispatch called her "the female LeBron James." "Her sweet jump shot alone draws comparisons to a young [Kobe] Bryant and [LeBron] James when they were high-school prodigies," the Philadephia Inquirer wrote. "People have referred to Delle Donne as the female high-school version of LeBron James," the Wilmington News Journal added. "Maybe it should be the other way around." ↵

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↵"She’s like a 7-foot Kobe Bryant," her dad told SLAM, which labeled her "The Golden Child." No pressure or anything. ↵

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↵As a prep star in Delaware, she won four state basketball titles, once made a record 80 straight free throws, dropped 50 in a state title game, made the cover of USA Today, earned national player of the year awards, was compared to Dirk Nowitzki by Sports Illustrated, and was described in a New York Times headline as having "the Potential To Alter the Game." A year ago this week, she enrolled at UConn, just the way any female LeBron James should. Straight chalk. ↵

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↵Except then she dropped out, claiming burn-out, and enrolled at the University of Delaware as a walk-on volleyball player. "The sport ended up dying for me," she told the Washington Post in the fall. "I faked it really well," Delle Donne told ESPN's Outside the Lines in November, saying basketball was "work" and "Now that I play volleyball, I know what it's like to have a passion for a sport." Not a lot of wiggle room there. ↵

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↵Anyhow, she made the CAA's all-rookie volleyball team, at least, which is sort of as impressive as altering the way a sport is played for all time. But no one really believed she would never play basketball again. Floyd Mayweather doesn't stop using fights as an opportunity to refer to himself in the third person. Rick Reilly doesn't stop saving baseball. Certain people were just born to do certain things. ↵

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↵And so Della Donne will come back to the sport that made her famous this year, and she'll do it at ... yeah, Delaware. This is LeBron James turning down the NBA draft and enrolling at the University of Akron. This is Lance Stephenson finally announcing his college choice as SUNY New Paltz. This is the Fab Five all showing up at Western Michigan. I mean, the female LeBron James, a Blue Hen? Beers at the Deer Park on me. ↵

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↵Oh, and it turned out the sport wasn't really as dreadful as work, and it wasn't really dead to her. She was just homesick. Her bad. ↵

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↵"I mistakenly put the blame for my feelings on basketball, when in reality it was homesickness," she told the Hartford Courant on Tuesday. "I almost feel bad now for basketball, that I blamed it for something that wasn't its fault," she told the News Journal. ↵

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↵That's OK. Basketball will forgive you. It's been blamed for worse. ↵

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↵For more of Dan Steinberg, visit his blog with The Washington Post, D.C. Sports Bog. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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