DRAPER — Donovan Mitchell isn’t in dunk mode right now, so none of the kids at his youth basketball camp got bragging rights like he once did as a youngster.
The kids who participated in his camp at Juan Diego had a blast, of course.
They just didn’t get dunked on by an NBA player, which happened to Spida and remains a fond memory.
“I went to David Lee’s camp. I remember that specifically because he dunked on me back in that camp,” Mitchell said, smiling between camp sessions Monday at the private school.
“That was my claim to fame that an NBA player dunked on me.”
Mitchell laughed when asked if he’d dunked on one of the small kids at his camp, but he’s still intentionally working his way back from the left foot injury he suffered in Game 5 of the second round against the Houston Rockets.
“I’m not dunking right now,” the Jazz guard said. “I’m trying to ease up on the foot.”
One thing Mitchell hasn’t eased up on this summer?
This has been an exceptionally busy offseason for the breakout NBA star, who has bounced around the U.S. for awards ceremonies and camps and around the world for fun, business and events that blur the lines between those two.
Mitchell and his mom returned to Salt Lake City late Sunday night from an adventure in Shanghai, China, where it was announced that he’s on the cover of the wildly popular NBA 2K Online 2 video game that is played by 37 million Chinese basketball fans.
“That was insane, to be honest,” Mitchell said. “That was a lot of fun.”
That 6,400-mile trip was just one of the big adventures he’s been on since the surprising Jazz were eliminated by the Rockets in May. Since then, he’s been to Serbia for the EuroLeague Final Four, to Greece for a vacation and to Spain where he shot an adidas commercial, worked out with James Harden and spent time at Ricky Rubio’s “really nice” casa.
“I think my SkyMiles are pretty high,” Mitchell joked. “But I’m seeing different parts of the world.”
It’s caught Mitchell by surprise how many people have known who he is, which apparently comes with the territory playing as well as he did, winning the 2018 NBA Dunk Contest and finishing as runner-up in a controversial and highly publicized Rookie of the Year contest. Some international fans even know his story and his stats.
Mitchell uses that growing popularity as motivation.
“They know everything. It’s pretty cool to see people I’m reaching throughout the world. It’s pretty special,” he said. “It’s taken me back and I look at it differently. When you start playing throughout the season, you’re focused just on the games so for me to go out there and experience this is really cool, really special, but makes me realize how much more work I have to do to get to the level of guys like James and Dame (Damian Lillard) and all those guys to get to that level.”
That self-improvement process has already begun this summer. Mitchell has started to dial in on his nutrition — he spoke of eating lean steak, chicken and salad on Monday — to shed a few pounds he’d gained since his rookie season ended. And he’s about to kick off two-a-day workout sessions to get ready for this fall.
“No need to rush it. There are no games coming up,” he said. “I’m just taking it slow, trying to pick up the pace and get back into workouts, losing all the extra weight that I’ve gained the past month or so. I’m getting back to it and feeling good.”
It makes him feel good to participate in these camps for kids.
“This is awesome to be able to get a chance to do this for the kids,” Mitchell said. “I hope they have fun and they enjoy it.”Comment on this story
He knows some of the kids have met him before and gotten stuff from him, and he was eager to meet other young fans for the first time. He loves giving people a rare opportunity to meet an NBA player.
“Some of these kids will never see me again so it will give them an opportunity to play, work out, have fun and just enjoy camp as well,” he said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Maybe if he’s not coming off of an injury next year a kid will get to brag about being dunked on by him, too.