SALT LAKE CITY — Declining an invitation to defend his title at the 2019 AT&T Slam Dunk Contest was certainly tough for Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell.
As a kid, he studied Vince Carter highlights, someday wishing to be a participant until he enjoyed that moment last year as a rookie in Los Angeles.
However, he wasn’t aware of the media obligations and aftereffects of entering that All-Star Weekend.
“I remember last year, when I came back from All-Star, I was tired,” Mitchell recalled. “I was tired. Fortunately we had some days where I could rest. There’d be days where I wouldn’t go to the gym. I would just sleep just to get that rest, so for me it’s tough because it is my favorite event in the entire weekend.”
Although Mitchell will participate for Team USA in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday in Charlotte, this year he will put his communications classes from the University of Louisville to use alongside TNT’s Kenny Smith on Saturday as part of the announce team for the dunk contest.
Charlotte’s Miles Bridges, Atlanta’s John Collins, Oklahoma City’s Hamidou Diallo and New York’s Dennis Smith Jr. are this year’s participants. Mitchell says he will have fun with the process.
“With the Rising Stars Game, I’ll go out there and have some fun,” Mitchell told the Deseret News. “Some of the guys, I’ve known for a while and with the commentary, I’ll be able to watch the dunk contest as a fan, that’ll be pretty cool.
“So, it’s just to have some fun, enjoy some time off but not get too out of shape and just get ready to get back.”
Mitchell isn’t a rookie to the media side of things, either. During the 2018 NBA Finals matchup between Cleveland and Golden State, he interviewed Kevin Love, Steph Curry and Draymond Green ahead of Game 3 on the NBA’s Twitter page.
However, he hasn’t had much time to brush up on his journalism skills with the Jazz in the midst of a busy season.
“No. To be honest with you, I haven’t,” Mitchell said. “I’m just going to take some notes and start watching it but just enjoying it. Just having fun watching my peers do what they do best.”1 comment on this story
Utah suffered a 115-108 loss to Curry and the Warriors at Oracle Arena on Tuesday entering the All-Star break and will enjoy a 10-day rest before facing the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday, Feb. 22. Mitchell’s decision to sit out for this year’s dunk contest doesn’t mean he won’t return in the future, but for now he put his personal goals on the backburner for the squad and his teammates are appreciative as they look to make a strong playoff push.
“I think that’s great. He’s still going to be out there but it’ll be great for him to be able to take all the distractions away a little bit and focus on himself,” Jazz center Rudy Gobert said. “When you’re young and in the NBA, you’re excited, you wanna do everything, you gotta enjoy it but at the same time he’s no superhero… I mean, he’s Spida-Man, but he’s not a superhero so you’ve gotta take care of yourself and recover.”