I’m gonna be real with you dog, this one hurts.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen this one coming for a while. I don’t know if that makes this easier, because we expected it, and prepared for it in some way emotionally. Or if it made it harder because we didn’t really get any true closure until just yesterday, when Donovan Mitchell was actually traded way. Either way, it happened, and the Donovan Mitchell era in Utah has officially come to end.
(Just to be clear and totally up front, this is absolutely a Donovan Mitchell appreciation post)
When you think of Donovan Mitchell’s time in Utah, what do you think of? In a five-year period, so much comes to mind.
The summer of 2017 was brutal for Jazz fans. After Gordon Hayward left, we all wondered what the future of the Jazz looked like. Many thought the Jazz would dissolve into basketball darkness. But with the help of a rookie from Louisville, the 2017-18 season will go down as one of the most magical seasons in Jazz history in the eyes of many fans. Couple things stand out to me from that amazing season:
The Iconic Dunk that started it all:
41-point game vs Pelicans:
“See y’all next year” OKC game 5:
38 points in elimination game in round 1:
“Game. Blouses” Dunk vs Rockets
Just a human highlight reel in general:
So much good stuff from that season. Because expectations were maybe a little lower after Hayward left, it seemed like a first round win was amazing. Mitchell played every game with so much zest and energy, and it made every single matchup a must-watch.
Donovan Mitchell became a star so quickly in Utah that it was literally unbelievable. So many times during his early years on the Jazz, I’d think to myself “how is this real?” or “We never get players like this??” When Donovan was catching the eyes of guys like LeBron James or Dwyane Wade post-game and they would come up specifically to him, it just felt so surreal. Having a dude that they were actually showing on ESPN highlights was a pretty big deal. It continued to feel surreal when Mitchell started landing huge endorsement deals left and right, including getting his own signature shoe from Adidas in the summer following just his second season.
Seeing Donovan be selected as an All-Star in just his third season was so much fun. Again, it was something that Jazz fans were not accustomed to seeing, and broke a 12-year drought for All-Star selections in Utah.
In the following off-season Mitchell was named to the Team USA roster for the FIBA World Cup, and despite a disappointing ending for Team USA, he represented the Jazz so well. It was so much fun watching him grow and develop as a player and leader that summer with Team USA.
It’s hard to think of Donovan Mitchell’s time in Utah and not immediately think of the insane series against the Nuggets in the 2020 bubble. Just the weirdest sequence of events from getting COVID, the beef with Rudy, going to the bubble, and then dropping one of the most impressive individual playoff series in NBA history. Was unreal to watch, even though it ended how it did (pain and sorrow).
2021 was the Jazz’s year, until it wasn’t. Another great year from Mitchell was hampered by a leg injury towards the end of the season that kept him out until the playoffs. A dispute between the Jazz’s medical team and Donovan Mitchell kept Spida out of game 1, which they lost to the 8-seed Grizzlies. I remember being a that game 1 in person, and witnessing Donovan Mitchell on the bench talking smack with Dillon Brooks all game. Brooks had a big game one including the win, and was letting Mitchell know. Donovan just sat there nodding his head like “wait till I”m back”. Sure enough, Mitchell returned in game 2 and gave Brooks the business. Jazz won four straight.
I still believe, and I’ll go to my grave doing so, that the Jazz with the championship that year if Donovan doesn’t get re-injured. Watching him continue to ball out on one leg was pretty painful, yet inspiring. There were so many moments like this during Mitchell’s tenure in Utah. He was a pretty good shit-talker and didn’t have any shortage of on-court beef. After all, he did spend a couple years with Joe Ingles, so what else could we expect?
I could have written 3,000 words and included so many more highlights and on-court plays that Donovan Mitchell made as a Jazz man over the last 5 years. But you can’t talk about Donovan Mitchell’s on court impact, without mentioning his amazing impact off the court as well.
It became so normal to see Donovan Mitchell giving shoes, jersey etc, to kids before or after games. He seemed to always go out of his way to do something special for someone in the arena. This compilation was mostly from moments in his early years, and it gives a good idea of how many times he did this throughout his time in Utah.
The first portion of this video was a clip of Donovan giving some shoes to Wyatt Page, an absolute warrior of a kid that passed away in January of 2020 in a battle with brain cancer. This clip is how I’ll always remember Donovan Mitchell. The “my man!!” as soon as he sees Wyatt just hits home. Wyatt’s smile as Donovan talks to him and hands him his shoes is just.. everything. After Wyatt’s passing, the Jazz, and Donovan Mitchell honored Wyatt.
My thoughts and prayers go out to Wyatt’s family!!! He was so energetic and happy to be around us he was a huge fan! Love you lil guy! Rest In Paradise ❤️ https://t.co/6KhnsPldUK— Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) January 15, 2020
This is who Donovan Mitchell was.
Don was always about the fans, especially the kids. Seemed like he made it a huge priority to touch as many kids’ lives as he could, and I’m sure there are so many kids in Utah and other states and cities around the country that were touched by things like this that were little to Mitchell, but big to the kids.
Donovan’s effort and impact on social issues in Utah were massive. I’ve been a fan of the Jazz for 30+ years, and I’ve never seen a Jazz player speak his mind and stand up for others in the way that Donovan did, and in such a fearless way. He was relentless in wanting to improve equality and racial awareness in a place that needed, and continues to need it so much. He knew the demographic of Utah, and that the majority of people here would have issues with what he had to say. But he did it anyways, because he wanted to use his platform for change and to improve Utah for everyone, especially minorities and other people of color. I respect him so much for that.
I am at a loss for words rn… this is honestly sick! A little girl committing suicide because she was bullied based on the color of her skin… it’s sickening that grown adults knew about this and didn’t give a damn! Rest in Paradise Izzy! WE will be your voice ❤️ https://t.co/IqNDPTsU72— Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) November 10, 2021
An entire book could be written about Donovan Mitchell’s time in Utah. The good times, the bad, the happy and the sad. For me, It will go down as one of the most improbable and amazing times in Jazz history.
Almost five years ago, I wrote this story about Donovan Mitchell before the start of his rookie season.
Before Mitchell had even picked up a basketball in an official NBA game, I knew there was something special about him. He might not have accomplished everything that he wanted to in Utah, but his time and memories created over the last five seasons have been absolutely unforgettable.
I’ll never forget those thrilling stretches where Mitchell would take games over and everyone on the court knew there was nothing that they could do. When he was so locked in and you knew when he was pulling up from 25+ feet, that baby was going in the bottom of the net. I’ll never forget the smiles that he put on kids’ faces after receiving a game-worn pair of DONs or a jersey. I’ll never forget the impact that he had on my home state, and on myself personally. If I could sum up my memory of Mitchell in Utah, it would be just that; unforgettable. Donovan Mitchell was that dude in Utah, and don’t you ever let anyone tell you otherwise. Although it didn’t end up with a championship, it was a hell of a run. I’m a Donovan Mitchell fan for life, and I’ll root for him wherever he goes.