CHARLOTTE, N.C. — More than two decades have passed since Michael Jordan broke the hearts of Utah Jazz fans with “The Last Shot” on the Delta Center floor in 1998 to deny them an NBA title.
Nobody in Utah at that time certainly would’ve ever imagined in their wildest dreams that 21 years later the franchise’s star player Donovan Mitchell would be inspired by his legendary career.
With the 2019 All-Star Weekend in Charlotte, Jordan’s presence is certainly felt as the owner of the Hornets, in his home state of North Carolina, with the actual All-Star Game set for his 56th birthday on Feb. 17.
“Oh, his birthday is this weekend? I didn’t even know that,” Mitchell said ahead of the Rising Stars practice.
Mitchell won’t be in the All-Star Game, but did participate in Friday’s Rising Stars Challenge with his first- and second-year peers and will appear on TNT’s announce team during Saturday’s dunk contest.
He put up 20 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and five steals as the 14th Jazz player to play in a Rising Stars or rookie challenge and helped Team USA beat Team World, 161-144. Former University of Utah star Kyle Kuzma of the Los Angeles Lakers was named MVP after posting 35 points and six rebounds for Team USA.
“I played in this game last year and was really lackadaisical and I didn’t want to do that again,” Kuzma said.
As a former baseball player and lifelong fan of the game, Mitchell wears No. 45 in honor of Jordan’s legendary baseball and basketball careers and hopes to meet him for the first time this weekend.
“It all comes full circle. Being around here with Michael,” Mitchell explained. “Obviously, I wear No. 45 because of my baseball and basketball with Michael but to be here, it’s a great honor that the NBA is paying him, but he’s the greatest basketball player of all time and he always will be.
“That’s one thing that you’ve got to give him,” he added. “Like he said the other day, six championships, so for me to be here, it means a lot. It’s a blessing and everything kind of coming around full circle.”
His father, Donovan Mitchell Sr., is also the director of player relations and community affairs for the New York Mets and previously spent seven years from 1992-98 in the minor leagues for the Houston Astros organization.
Mitchell Sr. was drafted by Houston in the 14th round of the 1992 MLB June amateur draft and played in college at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
“It’s cool,” Mitchell Sr. told the Deseret News. “I know he had come down there with me one time when we were swinging through Charlotte, so it’s cool to see him back there, but that’s been awhile.”
Like Jordan, Mitchell is also preparing for the launch of his first signature sneaker this year. Adidas hasn’t yet revealed the official release date, but a Deseret News source did confirm that the D.O.N. Issue #1 is scheduled to release on July 5, 2019, in conjunction with the “Spider-Man: Far From Home” movie, for $100.
On Thursday, Mitchell began filming his first spot for the sneaker but isn’t projected to begin wearing them on court until later this month or possibly in March.
Obviously, the Jordan Brand is also extremely active in Charlotte along with Nike and the Own the Game campaign, but so is Adidas with its newest basketball footwear.Comment on this story
“The sneaker shoot yesterday, that was dope,” Mitchell said. “I put another colorway on IG and just the fact that I have my own shoe is pretty wild to me, but it was dope.
“I kind of just got to be myself and I got to control everything what I was doing,” he added. “They asked me what I liked about this and what I liked about that, which isn’t always the case, but I think Adidas gave me a great platform to be like, ‘I like this, I want to do this, or I don’t want to do that,’ and it was just a lot of fun.”