Donovan Mitchell gave the most introspective look at his own personal life today in a self-penned article in the The Player’s Tribune. If that wasn’t authentic enough, he decided to make sure someone was double checking his honesty: his mother. After all if you want to really get to know someone, talk to their mom. Donovan Mitchell’s mother, Nicole Mitchell, filled in for The Player’s Tribune as his editor and it has some crazy insights from Donovan’s life growing up, to AAU ball, to even Donovan thinking about quitting basketball altogether. Here are a few of the highlights.
Donovan used to dance to Kenny Rogers on his table at home as a kid
Editor’s [Mom] note: Donovan will deny this, but I came to pick him up from day care one day, and the lady said, “You know, Donovan is always jumping up on the tables and dancing. He just hops right up there and all the kids watch him.” And I guess I should’ve been embarrassed, but I thought it was so funny. Because whenever we used to go over to his grandma’s house for dinner, we’d clear off the coffee table and he’d hop up there and dance to her old records. That was our ritual. We’d have a nice little dance party. And I know Don is going to be so embarrassed that I’m saying this, but you know who we loved to listen to? Kenny Rogers. Imagine that. This little boy dancing on a coffee table to Kenny Rogers.
Donovan can identify with that kid at school that needs their lunch money bill paid
Maybe some kids reading right now can relate to this feeling — like the first time you go out to get something to eat with your new friends, and you have to do the whole, “I’m not hungry, I’m good,” thing. But then when you do it the third or fourth time, and you’re the only one not eating, everybody kind of knows the deal. When you’re young, that can be a really harsh reality.
Nicole Mitchell definitely was not a crazy AAU parent
Then we start driving back home, and we’re on the highway and she says, “Can I ask a dumb question? What exactly makes it a dunk, sweetheart?”
I had to explain it to her. Seriously. This was six years into me playing basketball, driving me all around the East Coast for games. That’s how you know she really did it for me, you know? She was not one of these crazy AAU parents.
Nicole Mitchell worked her *** off to take care of Donovan and his sister Jordan
We had no idea, but at the time she was always worried about how she was going to pay the rent that month, how she was going to buy us clothes, how she was going to pay for gas. She shielded us from all that. Her whole vision was to do whatever it took just to get us to graduate from Country Day. Because that’s something they could never take away from us. And, man, I have to admit, I made it hard for her sometimes.
Donovan tried to improv Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech for a school project, Nicole wasn’t about to let that happen
Editor’s note: Don tried to bluff his way through one of the most important speeches of the 21st century. I was not a happy mom.
The weekend before I was supposed to give the speech, she tested me. She called me out right in the living room. “Let’s hear it, sweetheart.”
And the thing is, I had the first part down. And I had the last part down. The middle was a problem. See, everybody just remembers the “I have a dream” part, but the whole speech is actually like five minutes long. So I tried to bluff it. I was freestyling about freedom and equality and so on. It did not go over well.
Editor’s note: There was no basketball that weekend. He thought I was lying. I was not lying. There was no basketball. By Monday, he knew every word of Dr. King’s speech.
Donovan Mitchell struggled early at Louisville and thought about quitting basketball
I’m probably not supposed to say this, but the truth is, there were so many times when I thought about quitting basketball, even when I was at Louisville. My freshman year, I shot 18 for 72 from three. I’ll never forget that number. That’s 25%. It was such an intense environment, plus you gotta go to class, you have to handle your business. It was a lot to handle. There were nights when I used to go back to my dorm and lock the door and just break down. Literally, sitting there, like, “Is this really what I want to do? Am I good enough?”
Donovan made his opportunities come to him when he asked to get in on Pro runs
Turns out Rondo would come and have these secret, invitation-only runs in the summertime, just on random nights. I was telling Larry every day, “Listen, you need to get me on that group text.”
Larry worked his magic and he got me in, and then one random night someone texted, “Who’s in tonight?”
And, man, I was so quick with the HANDUP EMOJI.
Turning point for Mitchell was December 31, 2016 after receiving a heartfelt message from his sister
The night before the game, Coach told me that I wasn’t starting. It was super, super tough. I was in a really bad headspace.
But then I got a text message that I wasn’t expecting. It was from my sister. It was one of those texts that you have to scroll up to read — that’s how long it was. And we don’t typically talk this way. We usually keep it super fun. I mean, she was 13 years old at the time. But this message was just super heartfelt and honest, expressing how much she believed in me, and how she’d witnessed how hard I worked over the years, and how she knew everything was going to work out.
She was bringing up all these little moments from the past, and it just did something to me.
Man, I’m serious, that text probably changed my whole life.
I don’t even think I’ve ever told her that before. When I got called off the bench that day, I came out flying. I was hitting shots that I’ve never hit in my life — falling out of bounds and everything.
Donovan really does love Utah
Editor’s note: Honestly, I was thinking like any mother of a 20-year-old boy. I was just praying, Keep my baby far away from New York, L.A. and Miami! He needs a stable environment! I was very pleased with Utah. Very pleased.
I know guys in the league say, “Oh yeah, I love X, Y, Z city.”
But man, I genuinely love Utah. The way that the city embraced me as a rookie is something that I didn’t even think was possible.
Editor’s note: My favorite thing was going to my first game in Utah, and I just couldn’t believe that so many people already had on my son’s jersey. You see that number 45 and as a mother, it’s overwhelming, you know?
Russell Westbrook gave Donovan his “WELCOME TO THE NBA” moment
Everything happened so fast. The first game of the season, I’m supposed to be on the bench, but then Rodney Hood went out with an illness right before tip-off. So all of a sudden, I’m running out onto the floor. And who are we playing?
I have to guard Russ.
Then, out of nowhere, he turns his head, and I swear to you, he looked me dead in the eyes from all the way across the court.
Dead in my eyes.
It was like a movie. I froze. Everything kind of hit me at once, and it was like, Ohhhh, snap.
That was my Welcome to the League moment. I just kept telling myself, “Keep him in front of you. Do not let him dunk on you and yell in your face.”
Determination Over Negativity
For me, everything comes down to a simple mantra: determination over negativity. So many people want to tell you what you can’t do. Especially now, with social media. But I think it’s important for kids to know that haters weren’t invented on social media. Haters have been around forever. AAU parents have been telling my mom she was doing the wrong thing since I was in third grade.
It’s amazing read. Whatever you’re doing, give yourself about 20 minutes to read it, get teary with it, and appreciate the amazing young man Donovan Mitchell is. Frank Layden once said, “When they made him, they broke the mold.” That’s our Donovan Mitchell right there.