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Donovan Mitchell and mom talk about growing up Spida

Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz (C) accepts the trophy for the 2018 Verizon Slam Dunk Contest at Staples Center on February 17, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. The first time he dunked, he'd had to explain to his mom (left) what a dunk was. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — Spida was so “extra,” his mom had to put him on a leash as a small child.

In a new piece for The Players’ Tribune, Donovan Mitchell describes having lots of extra energy all the time. His mom, who served as editor for the piece, vouched for him.

I was running around everywhere. But like, to no fixed destination. For no real purpose. Just running, man. There’s no photographic evidence of this, thank God, and I don’t even know if this is legal anymore, but when I was three or four years old, I swear to you that my mother used to put me on one of those kiddie leashes whenever we’d go anywhere.

Editor’s note: It was not a leash! It was a harness.

A harness. O.K. a harness.

Mitchell wrote that there was a purpose to all that running he did as a child. In his imagination, he was playing ball.

The real story is that I was obsessed with sports. Basketball and baseball were the main ones. When my friends weren’t around, I used to play imaginary five-on-five in my head. We had this archway between our living room and dining room, and I’d jump up and slap it. That was my hoop. That’s how I dunked. Everything was in my head — the pick-and-rolls, the inbounds passes, the crowd. I’d be talking imaginary trash and everything.

Editor’s note: Oh my gosh, I used to hear him slapping the arch all day. When I’d be cleaning the house, I was too short to reach up there with the rag. So when we moved out, the handprints were still up there.

Keeping Spida on track

donovan mitchell spida draft

Donovan Mitchell walks on stage with NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being drafted 13th overall by the Denver Nuggets, then traded to the Utah Jazz, during the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft at Barclays Center on June 22, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Mitchell describes his mom, Nicole, as being skeptical that the NBA was a viable career path for her basketball-playing son. In one of her editorial interjections, she writes that she believed the odds were against her son making a career out of sports. She hoped, she wrote, that he could get a college scholarship to play ball — but encouraged him to focus on his studies for whatever would happen after college.

That emphasis on education was not optional, Nicole Mitchell said. Her son agreed. As an eighth-grader, he recalled failing to memorize a speech for a public speaking class. When his mom discovered he hadn’t done the work, she canceled all sports for the weekend and made him memorize the speech.

He credits his mom for helping him recognize the importance of his grades and education.

donovan mitchell spida dunk

Donovan Mitchell competes in the 2018 Verizon Slam Dunk Contest at Staples Center on February 17, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

“Any kids reading this who are dreaming about playing college ball: You think those freshman and sophomore grades don’t matter? They matter. I almost messed up my whole future because I didn’t take those years seriously,” he wrote.

A dream realized

He got his head back into the figurative game of school and earned himself a scholarship to the University of Louisville, then eventually, to the NBA draft. Denver picked him up, then traded him to Utah (a pre-arranged deal), which Mitchell describes as a much better fit for him.

“I absolutely fell in love with [Salt Lake City] during my workout with [the Jazz],” Mitchell said.

Mitchell writes that all along, he dreamed of one day having enough money to buy his mom a house next to all the rich kids’ homes, when he was the poor kid attending a private school. That’s happened. And Nicole Mitchell has achieved a dream of her own – becoming a teacher and working with preschoolers.

“And man … I really pray to God that they’re not as extra as I was,” her son concluded.

Read Spida’s full article in The Players’ Tribune here: https://www.theplayerstribune.com/en-us/articles/donovan-mitchell-the-dream