NEW YORK (AP) It was a whirlwind NBA All-Star weekend for Elena Delle Donne. Everywhere you turn, the Chicago Sky star was there.
She judged the first NBA fashion show and competed in the All-Star Saturday night's shootout where her team finished last. She also had a few sponsor appearances thrown in as well.
Delle Donne had fun at all of them, but for the 2013 WNBA rookie of the year, none compared for her to the Special Olympics Unified Game on Saturday morning. A global ambassador for Special Olympics, Delle Donne helped lead her team to a 58-56 victory.
''This was by far my favorite part of the weekend,'' she said. ''I love this game, love the camaraderie you form among your teammates. Reminds me why you play sports and it's all for the love of the game.''
It only took a few seconds of watching her interaction with the Special Olympics athletes to understand why the game meant so much to Delle Donne, whose sister Lizzie is blind, deaf and has cerebral palsy and autism.
Whether giving a high-five or signing autographs, Delle Donne was so happy to be part of the game.
''It's amazing to be around them and to talk to them,'' said Delle Donne, who has run basketball camps this offseason that have included Special Olympics athletes.
Tamika Catchings, who played in the Unified game for a second straight year, has been impressed to see the young star grow off the court.
''She's so passionate about the things she does. Her talent on the court is one thing, her as a person what she brings to the game is a totally different thing,'' Catchings said. ''All the things she does and the impact she's going to be able to have is exciting for me to see. It's the tip of the iceberg with all the stuff she's doing.''
One thing Delle Donne isn't doing is playing overseas. She could earn a lucrative contract in the winter, but the 25-year-old would much rather stay in the states and help grow her brand and the WNBA.
''It's crucial to be here in America, show your face in the offseason,'' Delle Donne said. ''Keep the WNBA in everyone's mind and build my brand.''
The time off also has given her a chance to recover from her latest bout of Lyme Disease that caused her to miss 17 games this past season as well as back issues that bothered her during the WNBA playoffs.
''I feel good and hopefully it will stay that way,'' she said.
It's the second straight year that Delle Donne has been part of the NBA All-Star weekend. She hopes that she'll be able to take part in the WNBA All-Star weekend festivities this year. She's been voted a starter in each of her first two seasons, but has been forced to miss both of them because of injuries.
''It's definitely something I'm looking forward to hopefully be a part of,'' she said.
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