One of the most fascinating things about sports is witnessing the creation of a legacy happen before your eyes. Maybe you watched Michael Jordan dazzle as a rookie in 1984. Maybe you continued to watch him solidify his legend status and go undefeated in six NBA Finals appearances throughout his career. Maybe you remember LeBron James’ legacy beginning with his prep years in Akron, Ohio and watched him bring a championship to Cleveland in 2016. No matter how long you have been watching basketball, or any sport for the matter, you have probably witnessed a player’s legacy developing before you. If not, then you have an opportunity to see one in these coming years in Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell.
When Donovan Mitchell was drafted by the Utah Jazz, things were much different than they are now, just two months later. The Jazz at that time were still in consideration to keep All-Star Gordon Hayward on the team, as well as starting point guard George Hill. They were coming off a 50-win season in which they advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals. They were considered one of the toughest teams in the league, with huge upside in coming years.
But then free-agency happened. Gordon Hayward left and signed with the Boston Celtics. George Hill reached an agreement with the Sacramento Kings. Just like that, the Jazz lost their only All-Star, and two of their most productive offensive players on their roster.
In the eyes of many, the Jazz slipped from the grasps of relevancy in the Western Conference, especially with stars Jimmy Butler, Paul Millsap, and Paul George coming to teams in the Northwest Division.
Amid this offseason turmoil, the Utah Jazz have found solace in visions of what Donovan Mitchell just might become. When Mitchell torched nets in his summer league appearances, it became easier for some Jazz fans to let go of the “what if’s” of Gordon Hayward and George Hill, and focus on those more positive ones of the future in Donovan Mitchell. After being drafted by the Utah Jazz in April, Donovan Mitchell expressed how excited he was to be in Utah and apart of the Jazz organization. He talked about how he loved the mountains, the scenery, and how impressed he was with Dennis Lindsey and Quin Snyder. He mentioned how excited he was to live in Salt Lake City and represent the city on the basketball court. Mitchell had nothing but good to say about the area and how much he loved it while visiting.
Mitchell was also just recently featured by the NBA and had a camera crew following him around his new place in Salt Lake City, complete with an interview and first-person commentary by Mitchell.
Mitchell has been vocal about his excitement to play for the Utah Jazz organization and its fans. Players have said this before about Utah, and later changed their minds about the area, so it remains to be seen if Mitchell remains true to his words and if the city can continue to win him over.
Mitchell’s genuine and charming demeanor seemed to instantly capture the hearts of Jazz fans as he sat there incessantly smiling into the camera during several interviews. Throughout the pre and post-draft interviews, summer league, and NBA offseason, Donovan Mitchell is showing he is ready to play for the Utah Jazz.
Mitchell finds himself in a peculiar situation with a unique opportunity. He joins a 50-win team that still is eager to prove people wrong. This team is led by All-NBA center Rudy Gobert, one of the fiercest competitors in all of the NBA. Mitchell, who possesses elite defensive tools himself, finds himself on one of the toughest defensive squads in the league. He sits in a position to win over an entire city and fan base who just recently had their hearts ripped out by free agency decisions, with a chance to help heal those wounds.
He approaches this season with a prime opportunity to become a fan-favorite, as many of those spots opened after the departures of Hayward and Hill this summer. His flash, defense, hustle, and play-making ability should quickly secure a spot for him in Jazz Nation’s lineup. More than anything else, Donovan Mitchell has Jazz fans excited for this upcoming season, despite all that they’ve been through this off-season.
With much anticipation and excitement looming, what is the ceiling for Donovan Mitchell? Jazz leading scorer? All-Star? All-NBA? Given Mitchell’s determination, drive, and athletic ability, don’t count any of those out. But my gut feeling tells me he has a chance to do even more than that for the Utah Jazz.
If what Mitchell said about Utah and the Jazz organization came from the genuine chambers of his heart, it could be a match made in heaven. He could fall in love with the city and become interactive with the community and surrounding areas. He could dazzle on the court with his speed, and athleticism, giving the Jazz something they desperately need. He could quickly become a fan favorite with Jazz fans large and small buying his jersey to wear on their couch out home and attending games at Vivint SmartHome Arena.
He could be a powerful, emotional leader but yet a humble, quiet workhorse. He could give everything he has for the Utah Jazz, an organization that is built upon the foundation of long-term relationships and respect such as that of the franchise and Jerry Sloan, Karl Malone, and John Stockton. He could mean everything to this Utah Jazz team, front office personnel, and ever-passionate fan base. One thing is for sure, the opportunity is there. It’s up to him whether or not he snatches it. It’s up to him to create his legacy.
What will become of Donovan Mitchell?
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Utah Jazz legend