If you missed Donovan Mitchell’s piece in the Players Tribune yesterday, stop what you’re doing right now and read it. Without any bit of hyperbole, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever read. Donovan’s mother, Nicole, is the guest editor of the story and the way that she pops in and out of Donovan’s stories giving her side of things is absolutely perfect and pretty hilarious.
I don’t think I truly comprehended how amazing Donovan’s journey has been until I read this article yesterday morning. I mean, I knew he had mentioned several times that he “wasn’t supposed to be here” or that there were points in his collegiate career that he didn’t think he would ever get drafted. But I don’t think I really understood how big of an underdog story he was, and the grind that it took to get him to where he is today.
I love hearing these stories about these guys that make it to the NBA. Guys that came from very little, and how they managed to make it on the highest platform of professional basketball on the planet. I really enjoy the underdog stories, the guys that were never supposed to make it. I love hearing about moments that changed their careers, and their lives overall.
My favorite part of Donovan’s piece is when he explained the moment that changed everything for him, in an empty gym in the middle of the night.
I came to Louisville with a chip on my shoulder, because I was a little bit under the radar. I didn’t get invited to the national McDonald’s All-American Game. I was in the regional game. I didn’t have the hype. And don’t get me wrong, I wanted the hype. I wanted my Ballislife mixtape and all that. But for whatever reason, whether it was me going to private school, or because our family didn’t play all the politics, I was under the radar.
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?”
An empty gym was my sanctuary. I used to go and shoot by myself at like one, two o’clock in the morning. On Friday nights when everybody was going to parties, I’d be in my little zone, headphones on, shooting from the rack. I remember one night, it was like three o’clock in the morning, and I was walking back from the gym. That Drake and Future mixtape had just come out, and I was listening to “30 for 30.” I guess I was going through something heavy at the time and, for whatever reason, that song just hit me a certain way.
I texted my mom on the way home, and I said, “Don’t worry. Pretty soon, you’ll never have to work again.”
I mean, I was coming off a freshman season where I averaged seven points. The NBA wasn’t even on the radar. I had no right to send a text like that. But for whatever reason, it was this really intense moment for me. I was going to make it happen, somehow.
That “pretty soon” didn’t take very long. Just a few years have passed since that text that he sent his mother, and Donovan Mitchell is well on his way to a very lucrative life. Aside from the $5 Million plus he’s made from the Utah Jazz, Mitchell has already inked endorsement deals with several huge companies like Adidas (included his own signature shoe), BodyArmor, and DoTerra. He’s really just scratched the surface of what he can earn as an NBA player, considering the beefy extensions he has lined up in his future, especially if he can make some All-NBA teams and qualify for a big max contract. It’s safe to say that Nicole Mitchell, as long as she chooses to, will not have to work ever again.
Donovan Mitchell has had quite the story so far. He’s accomplished in two years as an NBA player what most kids dream of. Dropping 40+ points in several games, willing his team to wins in the playoffs, dunk contest champion, Conference Player of the Week awards, shoe deals, commercials, the list goes on and on. Even considering how much he’s done in just two seasons, you can look at Donovan and just feel that he’s not even close to being done yet. He’s mentioned numerous times that his ultimate goal is to win a championship. After getting paired with Mike Conley via trade last week, the Utah Jazz might be primed to make a run at a title with Donovan Mitchell at the helm. It would be the cherry on top to an incredible journey, and might just be too crazy good to actually come true. But after all, that’s the type of stuff that makes the best stories.