Donovan Mitchell is not your average person. He’s not your average 22-year-old. He’s not your average basketball player, not your average employee of the Utah Jazz. Bottom line here: Donovan Mitchell is not average, at all. It’s pretty clear to the naked eye when you watch him play basketball that he has a gift. The way that he sifts through defenses, hangs in the air and finishes crazy shots at the rim that leave you wondering how he did it. Or maybe the way he takes over games late, like he did recently against the best team in the NBA Milwaukee Bucks. Or maybe winning dunk contests, dropping 40-point games, or leading his team through the playoffs against the reigning MVP. The list goes on and on. But what might be one of Mitchell’s most incredible characteristics, and something that sets him apart from the rest, is the way he has been able to break down barriers in such a short time while playing for the Utah Jazz.
Before Donovan Mitchell arrived in Utah, things were different. There weren’t any players on the team that got featured on SportsCenter, Adidas commercials, or prominent talk shows. The national TV games were far and few between, with the Jazz being lucky with two or three a season. The Jazz flew far below the radar, even after a 51-win season in 2016-17 and a playoff victory that ended Lob City in Los Angeles. But all of that changed when Donovan Mitchell got here.
Mitchell and the Jazz busted onto the scene last season with their incredible late-season run into the playoffs, beating the Oklahoma City Thunder in an electrifying series. Mitchell scored 38 points in an unforgettable series-clinching victory in Salt Lake City, only to fall to the Houston Rockets in the next round. But the world saw it. The world saw Donovan Mitchell, and they wanted more.
This season the Jazz have played in more national TV games than ever before. Mitchell released his own signature shoe, becoming one of just a handful of NBA athletes to do so. The Jazz TV ratings have sky-rocketed to be towards the top of the league. Even with a slow start to the season, Donovan Mitchell has landed the Jazz in the spotlight several times this season.
The increased attention and exposure have been a direct impact from Donovan Mitchell. But these bright lights don’t even begin to define the most important barriers that Donovan Mitchell has broken down in his career as an NBA professional. In response to the recent incident with a Utah Jazz fan and OKC Thunder player Russell Westbrook, Mitchell stepped up and delivered what is possibly his most impressive barrier-breaking performance of his career.
We have to do better... we will do better! pic.twitter.com/heBO4z66TY— Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) March 12, 2019
Donovan Mitchell didn’t have to do this. There’s nothing in his contract with the Jazz that states he must make a statement on issues like this. It’s out of his own heart. His own words. The words that were spoken by a certain Jazz fan that evening shook the NBA world, especially here in Utah, and Mitchell felt like he needed to say something to everyone. I’m so glad he did. I think his words are perfect. He defends his fan base, claiming that what happened that evening was not indicative of everyone in the stands, and everyone at home cheering the team on. But he also calls for improvement, protection, and change. He makes a simple plea that everyone be better, which we all know that we can and must do with issues regarding tolerance of racial and other offensive acts.
As Jazz fans, we’re not used to this. Having players that voice their opinions, especially on sensitive issues like this considering the demographic of the community and fanbase, is something pretty foreign to us all. But it’s necessary. It’s necessary to create a better fanbase, a better organization, a better team, a better community and a better world. Donovan Mitchell hasn’t even been in Utah for two years yet, but he’s already given the people so much to root for, both on the court and off. It’s going to be amazing to see how many more barriers Donovan can break, and how far he can take this basketball team that we all hold dearly to us.