In the summer of 2010, LeBron James went on ESPN to announce he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers and joining the Miami Heat. The Decision, as it was appropriately named, generated a great deal of scorn for James. But that scorn wouldn’t come from the Boys and Girls Club of America, which received over $2 million in donations from the King.
The Decision was not only a money-maker for the organization, but it also saw dozens of its kids witness the historic event live in person. Among those in attendance was another NBA All-Star, a then-13-year-old Donovan Mitchell.
A young Donovan Mitchell got to see LeBron James make his decision
While 10 million people watched The Decision from home, Mitchell was one of the lucky few there to see it live. The reason, more than anything, has to do with his proximity to the Greenwich, Connecticut, branch the event took place.
Mitchell, who is from the tri-state area, was living in Greenwhich at the time. After spending the night at a friend’s house, the pair ventured down the road to join the small crowd of excited kids in attendance.
“As a big LeBron fan in the sixth grade, I forced my mom to let me go,” Mitchell told Yahoo Sports. “I wanted him to go to Miami. I wanted him to get his first ring.”
Mitchell was understandably on an island in terms of wanting the two-time MVP to join the Heat. With Greenwich a little over 30 miles from Madison Square Garden, the future NBA star was surrounded by many angry New York Knicks fans.
“The people there who were Knicks fans … they weren’t too happy about it,” Mitchell said. “I almost got hit in the head with a Snapple bottle because they were just throwing stuff around outside. It was cool. I was just celebrating, so it was pretty cool.”
Mitchell was motivated by LeBron on the spot
It’s pretty cool to see your favorite player up close, especially in a historic setting like The Decision. But long after the King departed, Mitchell hung back at the Boys and Girls Club to increase his chances of meeting LeBron again on the court (h/t ESPN).
“I went and practiced in the same gym afterwards. I was like, ‘He was sitting right here!’ So it was pretty cool.”Donovan Mitchell
Mitchell is one of the rare people who played on the same court where LeBron changed the NBA forever. Yet he’s far from the only player who sees the King as a major influence.
“It’s funny,” Mitchell explained to ESPN’s Lisa Salters. “It just shows the influence he’s had on a lot of players in this league, whether it’s being at his camps or by me being at The Decision. That’s just a testament to the work he’s put in because it’s just real special.”
Mitchell is now a part of the next generation of stars succeeding LeBron
Now 25, Mitchell will always have the memories of witnessing The Decision. But as a star on the Utah Jazz, Spida has a different view of the King whenever they meet face-to-face.
“He’s the enemy,” Mitchell bluntly told ESPN. “Now, he’s the enemy.”
The fifth-year guard has been one of the best young players in basketball upon entering the league out of Louisville in 2017. He earned All-Rookie honors after averaging 20.5 points per game, then saw his point totals increase in each of the next three seasons. Last season, the 6-foot-1 guard managed to score a career-best 26.4 points with 5.2 assists per game.
As a two-time All-Star, Mitchell is the face of a Jazz team that’s been to the playoffs in all four of his professional seasons. And while Utah has been unsuccessful in its quest for a title, Spida is doing everything he can. The high-scoring guard has averaged 36.3 and 32.3 points in each of the last two postseasons.
It’s clear to see how LeBron has influenced Mitchell in a major way. But Jazz fans aren’t wishing for their star guard to emulate the King and leave his team for greener pastures.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.