Utah Jazz rookie guard Donovan Mitchell has taken the NBA by storm over his first two-plus months in the league. The No. 13 overall pick was considered one of the most NBA-ready players in the 2017 draft, and he’s proven to be that and then some. Through his first 37 games, Mitchell has led NBA rookies by averaging 18.2 points per game, and he’s even outplayed LeBron James in an epic showdown won by Utah on Dec. 30.
It’s been, in a word, a storybook beginning to Mitchell’s professional career. But the truth is, his goals eight years ago were a little different. Mitchell probably saw himself taking over a sports league, but it wasn’t the NBA. His father, Donovan Mitchell Sr., had played minor league baseball in the Houston Astros organization for seven seasons during the ’90s. It was his goal to follow his father’s footsteps and eventually build on his legacy.
Donovan Mitchell had baseball dreams before taking over the NBA. ⚾️ pic.twitter.com/jDDjdlBHo7
— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) January 4, 2018
That all changed though during one fateful game during his sophomore year in high school. Mitchell, who was considered a standout pitcher and shortstop, was injured in a collision with his catcher as they chased a popup. The catcher suffered a broken jaw. Mitchell suffered a broken wrist that cost him his chance to play AAU baseball that summer.
“I was sad and cried a little bit. It definitely built that hunger back inside of me to focus on basketball,” Mitchell told the New York Daily News last March.
With baseball out of the picture for the summer, Mitchell put his full attention on developing his basketball skills. Though baseball was his first love, he never went back.
The commitment to basketball has paid off in a big way. Mitchell landed a scholarship to play basketball at Louisville, and built up enough stock to become an NBA lottery pick. Now he’s potentially on his way to winning the NBA Rookie of the Year award.
Baseball is still in his blood though. It’s still in the family too. Mitchell Sr. has moved on to become the manager of player operations and community outreach for the New York Mets. Growing up in Connecticut, the Mets have long been the younger Mitchell’s favorite team, so he’s pretty happy with how things have played out in that regard.
Though he obviously didn’t think it at the time, it might be that his season-ending collision was the best thing for him. A life-changer even. Had he continued dividing his time or even sided with baseball, it’s possible the world would never know who Donovan Mitchell Jr. is. Instead, we know him as a fast rising star whose story is quickly becoming one of the best in sports.
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