In the playoffs, Donovan Mitchell made it clear that he’s a future superstar. His duel with Jamal Murray in the first round was spectacular, even if the Utah Jazz came up a shot short of victory. But it’s impossible to stick to sports in 2020, a fact Mitchell recognizes. He refused to let his on-court displays distract from America’s issues. Instead, the 24-year-old used his platform to focus on the things that really matter.
The Nuggets and Jazz gave us one of the few bright spots of 2020
It was only a first-round series. But the remarkable back-and-forth between the Nuggets and Jazz will live on. The fact that the Nuggets, after looking completely off in games two and three, won the final three games of the series, or that Mike Conley nearly hit an off-balance three-pointer to save Utah’s season, is enough to make it an incredible contest. But the unreal level of shotmaking from Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell makes it an all-timer.
Only four players have scored more than 50 points multiple times in the same series. Murray and Mitchell are two of those players. One of the joys of the playoffs is seeing a player make the leap to superstardom to lead their teams. It’s exceedingly rare to see it happen with players going against each other in the same series.
Murray deserves all the praise he received for saving Denver when the end seemed nigh. But Mitchell put up similar numbers — 36 points a game with 50/50/90 shooting splits — without having a center who can run an offense.
Utah’s season was chaotic even before COVID-19 brought society to a halt. After a second consecutive exit in the first round, the future of the franchise is uncertain. But signing Mitchell to an extension gives them a foundation to build upon. He still has room to grow, primarily as a playmaker, but this won’t be the last series where Mitchell puts up gaudy numbers.
Mitchell did his part to keep the attention on ongoing social issues
Coming within an inch of staying in the playoffs clearly hurt Mitchell, but he never lost perspective in this moment, even if he was disappointed in the outcome.
“The pain that’s on my face and the way I feel … I can only imagine what’s going through these victims’ families,” he said while holding back tears. “This is a game, people lost their family members to police brutality, the way that I’m feeling right now is nothing compared to that.”
This level of self-awareness is sorely lacking in the world at large, but this is far from the only example of Mitchell stepping up to speak about the real issues. He was one of the players on the Kyrie Irving-led conference call debating whether to start the season during the ongoing crises in America.
Mitchell became even more vocal inside the bubble. He wore “Say Her Name” on the back of his jersey to keep Breonna Taylor’s murder in the minds of fans and has spoken on multiple occasions about the need for Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron to do his job and arrest the cops who murdered her, reports the Deseret News.
He’s also used his social media accounts to bring awareness to other tragedies of racial injustice and supported the Milwaukee Bucks when they went on strike in protest of the shooting of Jacob Blake.
As great as Mitchell is as a player, he might be an even better human being. I think we can all agree on which one is more important.