WNBA Star Elena Delle Donne Reflects on the Joys of Living Her Truth 5 Years After Coming Out as Gay

"I'm just honored to be in a position that I can share my love with Amanda with the world," Elena Delle Donne tells PEOPLE

Elena Delle Donne and wife
Photo: Elena Delle Donne/ instagram

Elena Delle Donne is living her best life with her loving partner Amanda.

Over five years after coming out publicly in August 2016, the WNBA star, 32, tells PEOPLE that she's "honored" to joyfully share her love for her wife with the world.

Delle Donne, who was drafted second overall in 2013 behind Mercury Phoenix star Brittney Griner, first confirmed she was in a same-sex relationship in a Vogue profile when she discreetly confirmed her engagement to now-wife Amanda Clifton.

Reflecting on the time that has since passed, the Washington Mystics forward says she's happy to "be able to live in a world now where Amanda and I are able to be out and hopefully inspire others just to live their truth."

And the two-time WNBA MVP, who was named one of the league's 25 greatest and influential players of its 25-year history, gives props to the LGBTQ+ pioneers before her.

"I have to give so much credit to the people who are out way before the time that I'm in now, when it was so hard to do it and to have that strength and confidence," she says. "Obviously, it's still so hard to do it and everybody's story's different."

Delle Donne and Clifton met through a mutual friend in 2013. The couple had shared several photos of one another on social media prior to confirming their engagement and relationship. They wed in November 2017.

"I'm just honored to be in a position that I can share, first of all, my love with Amanda with the world. And to know that just by doing that and living our lives, we're able to help others," Delle Donne says.

"I think the times when it hits me the hardest is when I'll hear from a parent and they'll say like, 'By learning about you and Amanda's story and how your parents handled it, it helped me to know how to handle what to do when my child was open about it.' Or to hear from a young girl saying that it gave her the courage to come out, those are the moments where I stop and get the full-body chills," she shares.

"If people aren't okay with it, then those aren't people that you should even be worried about their thoughts," Delle Donne advises.

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While the sports world continues to take steps toward LGBTQ+ inclusivity, the WNBA has become the most socially conscious professional sports league in the U.S. and globally.

But Delle Donne says there's more progress to be made in all areas of the WNBA.

As one of 10 active players included on the "W25" list, she had a list of wishes for what she hopes to see in the next quarter-century.

"Quality of life for players and everybody in this league, including staff members. Maybe just the appreciation and what we deserve that our male counterparts get. A league that's so sustainable and so successful that hopefully young girls won't have to go play overseas unless they want to," Delle Donne shares.

"It's obviously an incredible experience to be able to go overseas and play, but not have to do that financially, to have a league here that's sustainable and young girls can get paid what they deserve," she continues.

Delle Donne, who is nearing almost 10 years in the league, says "I do think we are on a very fast track" for not just manifesting, but also implementing change.

"I've noticed it in the past few years, the jump that our league has made from the beginning of being in the league to now. It's like these past couple of years it's been a massive jump. So that's super exciting for me," she says. "And I know that it's just going to continue to climb because once again, the most important thing is that the product's there. We've had that for a long time and now it's just getting people to be on board and brands to be on board and to put money into it."

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