Donovan Mitchell: The Making of a Cardinal Icon Turned NBA All-Star

Donovan Mitchell’s rise to stardom has taken him from New York, to Louisville, and then all the way to All-Star status in Utah, his journey has been just as fun as the destination.

Donovan Mitchell has always been an enigma, both on and off the court if there is anything everyone can agree on, it is the absolutely massive personality the New York native brings to the game. From an electric Sophomore year, where Mitchell was named first-team All-ACC, to a rookie season enshrouded in a beautiful rookie of the year campaign, Donovan has never shied away from the spotlight.

Now in his second year in the NBA with the Utah Jazz, about to make his first appearance as an NBA All-Star, his cult-hero status only continues to build in Salt Lake City. His absolutely electric offensive game, featuring a balanced attack of brilliant acrobatic finishes and outside shooting, makes him one of the best scorers in the league.

His advanced stats this season have been incredible on the offensive end, and he has continued to build on the great offensive foundation he laid in college. Mitchell has risen to fame arguably quicker than any non-first overall pick in recent memory, going from the 13th pick to now an NBA All-Star.

Year three always looked like the year where Mitchell would take the next step into stardom, especially coming on the heels of his national shoe release and the explosion of his “Spida” brand worldwide. Mitchell has now developed into one of the league’s most exciting young prospects, let’s take a dive into the journey of Mitchell on way to becoming an NBA All-Star.

From internet dunking sensation to Louisville’s best player

Donovan Mitchell came into Louisville as a highly touted four-star recruit out of Brewster Academy in New Milford, CT. His first season with Rick Pitino was one for development certainly, playing just under 20 minutes a game, and averaging extremely pedestrian numbers, (25 percent from three, woof.) However, everyone saw the glimpses and the explosion that came in his sophomore season was one that he himself believed was coming. 

His sophomore season the explosion did come, and in a big way on the court. He doubled his scoring average, was shooting 35 percent from 3, and was averaging an extremely impressive two-plus steals a game. His acrobatic play and explosiveness instantly made him a fan favorite in Louisville, a guy who could block shots, hit the three-ball, and explode at the rim was certainly something to watch. And, there was that alley-oop in Syracuse. You know the one.

His outstanding production increase quickly garnered NBA interest, and after an extremely talented Cards team bowed out in the second round of the tournament, Mitchell declared for the draft. He would leave with First Team All-ACC honors and an expectation of lottery status in the NBA Draft. 

Surprise, he’s really good

However, these expectations were not shared by everyone, and the decision by Don to declare was one he explained as a sort of testing the water situation in the summer.

Some had his draft stock middling in the late first round, but coming off of an explosive Sophomore season it was easy to see why he would try. His gamble was a good one, even if it was a hard pill to swallow for Cards fans, he shined at the combine and set himself up well for an NBA payday.

Donovan Mitchell exploded onto the scene in Utah after Denver traded the 13th overall pick for Trey Lyles and the 24th pick in the draft. He set several records in his rookie season, including the single-game rookie-scoring record for the Jazz, which had been previously set by Darrell Griffith, Cards! He would be named the Western Conference rookie of the month 4 times, and engaged in a hilarious campaign to slander the good name of Ben Simmons and capture what would have been a deserved rookie of the year trophy.

While he missed out on those honors, Mitchell won the dunk contest his rookie season, filling in for an injured Aaron Gordon, flashing his name in one of the biggest spectacles in professional basketball. Not to mention, he broke out some pretty sweet dunks.

He would round out the season with a brilliant first-round performance against the Thunder, one in which he set multiple records and single-handedly carried a short-handed Jazz team over the finish line. It was a statement series for Mitchell, he had arrived on the scene and was already one of the biggest terrors on the offensive end of the floor in all of basketball.

Year two & beyond

His Sophomore slump was non-existent with the Jazz, where he improved in almost all areas of the game. His points, rebounds, and assists per game all increased, and save for a couple of blushes in the playoffs where he might have been asked to do too much yet again, Mitchell had a solid year and was on the cusp of being an all-star.

The building of a brand was evident in his second year in the league, as Mitchell teamed up with Adidas to release his first signature shoe, the D.O.N. Issue #1, basing the initial colorways off of some pretty spectacular Spiderman comics. His branding didn’t stop there, and him and Adidas fired up a clothing line based on the shoes, releasing sweatshirts based on the shoe design.

His status as a household name was cemented his second season, where Spida not only continued to dazzle on the court but shine in the community as well. Now in his third season, Donovan has yet again shown some tremendous year over year improvement from last season. Widely regarded these days as a franchise talent, and nothing less than an A-list celebrity in Utah, the saga of Donovan Mitchell is only beginning.

A deserved first all-star game has led to several emotional moments for Donovan, and a real feeling of good times ahead in Utah. With two all-stars and Mike Conley among others on the roster, the Jazz find themselves in a great position this season as the sleeper out West.

Next: Louisville basketball among 5 title contenders

That is how Mitchell would like it however, a player that has never shied away from the big stage. If you aren’t on the Donovan Mitchell train yet it isn’t too late to get on it, One of Louisville’s finest is just getting started.



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