WNBA: Ageless Wonder DeLisha Milton-Jones About to Set a WNBA Record for the Ages
WASHINGTON – DeLisha Milton-Jones is a walking encyclopedic history of the WNBA.
The 40-year-old veteran forward has spanned generations and is still going strong for the Atlanta Dream.
She’s a link to the WNBA’s past, present and future.
Milton-Jones is on the precipice of a major milestone, one that may stand for a long time when she takes the floor Tuesday morning against Connecticut and Friday night in Indiana.
Milton-Jones will tie and eventually pass Tina Thompson for the most games participaed by a player in WNBA history.
She played in her 495th career contest during Sunday’s 102-92 victory over the Connecticut. Thompson played in 496 games during her marvelous career.
“I get a lot of joy of saying to people that I played with Lisa Leslie, Candace Parker and Dawn Staley,” Milton-Jones said during an interview in June when the Dream visited the Verizon Center. “Usually people would shy away from that because it would show your age, but for me, it shows my entire maturation process and tells the story of my longevity in this league, which I am proud of.”
The affable Milton-Jones is a timeless treasure of athleticism, tenacity, grace and beauty.
That she’s been able to survive in the WNBA says plenty about Milton-Jones, a 1999 first-round draft pick who appeared in the movie “Love and Basketball.”
It’s a mark that should be celebrated. Milton-Jones has seen the league expand from eight teams to 16 to its current state of 12 squads.
During her career, she competed against defunct WNBA franchises: the Houston Comets, Orlando Miracle, Miami Sol, Charlotte Sting and Utah Starzz.
Milton-Jones has witnessed the growth of the WNBA from the birth of the Internet to the social and digital media age.
She has thrived despite suffering some major injuries like a ruptured Achilles’ tendon during her career.
She has been a valuable performer her entire career despite that there are fewer jobs and more talented players and bright stars in the WNBA such as Elena Delle Donne, Maya Moore, Tina Charles, Skylar Diggins, Brittany Griner and Emma Meesseman.
“It’s gotten younger,” Milton-Jones said of the WNBA. “You see the future is further down the road.
"When I came in the average age was 30 and we were wondering how long the league would survive because at the time there were a lot of these folks who were in their prime or ready to retire.
"Now, that the talent has risen, the ability to score has gotten better and there have been more oohs and ahhs from the crowd.”
Milton-Jones has prospered because she was diligent as a youngster in taking advice from Lisa Leslie, who will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame next month.
“She was the one who took me under her wing,” Milton-Jones said. “Lisa always gave me little gems of wisdom that helped me become the player I am today.
"I learned a lot about being a professional from Lisa and even more so how to be a lady on and off the court. She was all about wearing the lip gloss, lip stick and makeup during games, but that didn’t stop her from being a fierce competitor.”
She also learned another stern lesson while rooming with Leslie.
“Being a rookie, I thought I was going to go to the mall like everybody else after shootaround and Lisa was like no, you’re going to order room service, close those blinds and you’re going to sleep,” Milton-Jones said.
“I would lie in my bed in the dark with my eyes open listening to her breathe. She put the fear factor in me, but I appreciate it because she solidified my way of thinking and functioning as a professional.”
Milton-Jones has accomplished everything one can possibly achieve as a professional athlete.
She helped the Los Angeles Sparks win back-to-back WNBA championships in 2001 and 2002.
A two-time WNBA All-Star and Olympic gold medalist, Milton-Jones is one of five WNBA players all-time with over 5,000 points and 2,400 rebounds.
Quite naturally, Milton-Jones is among the top ten in league history in field goals made (sixth), rebounding (sixth), steals (fifth) and points (tied for ninth).
Another one of Milton-Jones secrets has been also taking care of her body.
“It can be pricy,” Milton-Jones said. “Some people spend their money on designer bags and shoes, but I spend my money on eating very good food, getting daily messages and visiting the chiropractor three times a week.
"I also listen to Kobe Bryant and watch him do some of the things he does. I also talk to his trainer. When I was at the Staples Center, I would make sure I was in his locker to see if he left any paperwork around. I was like if ‘Kobe ordered his food from here then I’m getting my food from there too.'”
Chicago Sky coach Pokey Chatman remembers Milton-Jones from her days at the University of Florida as a dominant post performer.
“As she got into the WNBA, she started adding different parts to her game,” Chatman said. “DeLisha figured out the mental and nutritional side of the game as well. She was into clean eating way before it was popular. She’s a competitor and at the end of the day, I want her in my foxhole because she’s a fighter.”
Milton-Jones has also been a winner off the floor as well by donating her time to spend with children at the Ronald McDonald House and working with the humane society. She’s also an advocate for battered women and children.
She is also a motivational speaker, mentor, wife and mother.
She has no plans of hanging up her high tops anytime soon.
“It’s funny people always say well ‘when is she going to leave,” Milton-Jones said. “If I am still able-bodied and an asset to a team, then why not play if somebody offers me a contract? I get a lot of enjoyment out of taking care of myself. I am going to leave when I am ready.”
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