LOS ANGELES — Nicole Mitchell’s 13-year-old son, Donovan, wouldn’t let up.
“Mom, I want to go,” he kept asking.
“Oh, my God,” Nicole reflected on Donovan’s excitement level.
Until she finally allowed the future Utah Jazzman to attend what would become one of the biggest moments in sports history. At the time, they had no idea, though.
“I was at The Decision,” Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell said of LeBron James’ announcement to leave Cleveland for Miami.
“That was right down the street from my house,” he described. “I almost got hit in the head with a bottle. Knicks fans weren’t very happy, but that was fun.”
As Mitchell and the Jazz prepared to face James and the Lakers on Friday, Nicole flew out to Los Angeles with his sister, Jordan, to celebrate Thanksgiving with her now 22-year-old son. In the eight years that have passed since they attended James’ Decision announcement, Nicole can still recall Mitchell’s teenhood fandom for the Lakers star to now actually going against him in a highly competitive Western Conference with a mature mindset.
“Donovan was a major LeBron fan, so just being able to see him was pretty huge,” Nicole recalled. “It was pretty big, especially in the town he attended school.
“I think every private school in the area, basically reserved spots for his students hoping he would want to move someplace in Greenwich and send his kids to a private school,” she explained. “So I think all the private schools in town tried to reserve some spots for his children. It was fun.”
Inside of the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich, Connecticut on July 8, 2010, a nervous 25-year-old James made his toughest career choice up until that point with millions of eyes watching.
James’ television special with famed sportscaster Jim Gray aired live on ESPN where he famously stated: “I'm going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.”
Mitchell wasn’t in the actual taped segment of James’ Decision, but he certainly saw him in person that day, as there were different areas to get in at the Boys & Girls Club. Mitchell was born in Elmsford, New York, but attended Greenwich Country Day School, where Nicole has taught pre-kindergarten since 2007 so she found a way to fulfill her son’s wish.
“Like everything else in Greenwich, I think it’s who you know,” Nicole said of gaining access to the event.
While Mitchell was one of the few celebrating his move to Miami, there were several New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers fans that were unhappy. That’s how Mitchell nearly got hit in the head by a flying Snapple bottle, as fans were outraged as they threw stuff around.
James recently explained the thought process of why he decided to air his decision to leave Cleveland for Miami on a recent episode of “More Than An Athlete,” his ESPN series about his journey to superstardom with his three best friends from Akron, Ohio.
“At the time for me, I was nervous as s***,” James admitted on episode two of his eight-part series. “It was doing something that was outside of the box meaning for me to change teams. I had spent seven years in Cleveland, my whole life in Akron, and I never had change before, never had to go away for college so I was nervous as hell up there."
“The Decision” certainly received mixed reviews with his close ties to Ohio. However, James’ television special raised more $2.5 million for charity and left a lifelong impact on young stars throughout the league such as Mitchell — even though he’s trying to beat him nowadays.Comment on this story
“Basketball-wise, I’d probably say LeBron (James) was a big one,” Mitchell told students during a live Q&A session with West High School students on Oct. 9. “I look up to not just what he did on the floor but what he's done in the community.
“I grew up when they hated LeBron, so for him to be able to take a lot and put a lot on his shoulders was really what stood out to me because not a lot of guys want that pressure, want that role, but he took it head on, so that was really impressive to me.”