Wilt Chamberlain of Overbrook High School in Philadelphia was the best basketball player in the world. We were fortunate he played much of his professional career in his hometown. NBA aficionados will tell you that the 1966-’67 Philadelphian 76ers were the best in the history of the league. It was Wilt’s gift to the city he loved.
We have not always been so lucky. Lower Merion High School’s Kobe Bryant took his best-of-an-era talents to Los Angeles and brought the Lakers five championships. Bryant once scored 81 points in a game, second only to the 100 points scored by Chamberlain.
I mention Wilt and Kobe because the time has come again to either keep or lose an area basketball player who is unanimously considered the best-of-an-era and maybe the best of all time. As I write this it seems unlikely we will be keeping this exceptional talent in the Philadelphia region because there is no team that will be able to offer enough money. To be more specific: There is no team in this area, period.
The player is Elena Delle Donne. She led Ursiline High School in Delaware to three straight state titles and was touted as the best woman’s high-school player since Cheryl Miller, Reggie’s sister. After accepting a scholarship to women’s basketball factory Connecticut, she changed her mind and came home to play at the University of Delaware. Suddenly, the Blue Hens were nationally ranked for the first time, in the NCAA playoffs for the first time, and had the leading scorer in the country for the first time.
It is worth taking the trip to see Delle Donne play. It is worth seeing the best ever in any sport play. But you only have one more year to do that because she is going in to her senior year and then on to the WNBA, where the six-foot-five blonde with a deadly jump shot will undoubtedly become the star and maybe the savior of the league.
Wouldn’t it be great if a Philadelphia, or Atlantic City or Delaware WNBA team could draft her? But there is no Philadelphia, Atlantic City or Delaware team. There are currently 12 WNBA teams. The closest to Philly are the New York Liberty and the Washington Mystic. Both teams are awful this year and will be in the hunt for the #1 draft pick. But the honor (?) will probably go to the putrid Tulsa Shock. We actually may not even need the top pick; some mock drafts, incredibly, have Della Donne going third in 2013, with Brittney Griner, the six-foot-eight center from Baylor going #1. You’ll remember that Michael Jordan went third in the NBA draft when he came out of college.
Someone needs to buy the Tulsa Shock franchise, or any WNBA franchise, and move it closer to Elena Della Donne’s home. Or maybe the WNBA can expand and grant our area a franchise. Whatever the path may be, she is that good, and we need to keep Elena Della Donne home. And so does the WNBA.
The struggling league needs the attention that Della Donne will bring to professional women’s basketball. Della Donne has already shown a tendency for a bad case of homesickness. The league can’t afford to chance a relapse in Tulsa.
Comcast Spectacor, the new 76ers ownership, an Atlantic City casino owner, the DuPonts or any number of area multimillionaires could buy the Philadelphia Belles, the Atlantic City Gulls or the Delaware Della Donnes for about 10 million dollars, a basement bargain price compared to the $1.6 billion spent on the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Exactly how much is a championship worth? How do you put a value on having the best player in the world?
We have until April and the 2013 WNBA draft to answer those questions.