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SALT LAKE CITY — Donovan Mitchell knows the expectations will be even higher now.
With Thursday’s announcement of the Adidas “D.O.N. Issue #1” — Mitchell's first signature shoe — the young Jazz star joins some pretty elite company. First off, there aren’t that many players with their own shoes. And even less so, there aren't many that get one in their second season. It’s rarified air; an honor reserved for the elite players in the game.
“With this comes more,” Mitchell said. “I have to bring more, do more and I know that. But at the end of the day, this is just a blessing.”
When Mitchell was approached last summer by Adidas and informed he was getting his own signature line, it capped off a surreal rookie season. He won the NBA dunk contest, he won an ESPY and he led Utah to a first-round playoff victory over Paul George and Russell Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder. He went from a mid-first round draft pick into one of the young stars of the game — all in one season.
That all built up to him being told he was getting something that he never really thought was a realistic possibility. And most definitely not this fast. Adidas currently has three signature lines — Damian Lillard, James Harden and Derrick Rose.
“I was completely surprised that this was happening,” Mitchell said. “To be in the same line up as them is an honor in itself. To have this happen took me by surprise.”
A release date hasn’t been set for the shoes, but Mitchell estimated that he would start wearing them for games beginning in February or March.
“Happy for him,” Rudy Gobert said. “I think it’s great.”
Mitchell already knows what comes with increased expectations. He has already felt some criticism this season. The second-year guard is averaging 20.2 points per game but is only shooting 40.7 percent from the field and 29.1 percent from the 3-point line. Those numbers have opened the door for critics to pounce on his game.
“A lot of it is mental,” Mitchell said. “It took me some time to figure it out this year, figure it all out mentally. I think I am in a good spot.”
Mitchell credits his teammates for helping him get there. Just a couple days ago, he and Ricky Rubio had a lengthy conversation about keeping the right “head space.”
“With our struggles, it’s easy for people to turn all the positives into all that negative stuff,” Mitchell said.
Overcoming those negativities helped inspire the name of the shoe. D.O.N. isn’t just Donovan shortened, it stands for Determination Over Negativity.
Mitchell wants his shoes to stand for his positive message, which is why he wants them to be accessible to all of his fans.
“People shouldn’t worry about (being able to afford them),” Mitchell said. “People will be satisfied with where they are. I’m not big on crazy expensive shoes. You can cancel that out right now. That’s not me. I can tell you that right now. That’s not who I am about. My message being for kids, I want kids to have the shoes.”
And how he made the initial announcement showed just how much he cares about that message. He had two student reporters from Greenwich Country Day School in Connecticut — Mitchell’s alma mater — break the news.
Ninth-grader Rory Ashmeade and eighth-grader Blaise New got the first interview with Mitchell about the shoes and broke the story on social media early Thursday morning.
“I went to school with both of them,” Mitchell said. “We made sure they were the first two to announce it. From there they had Woj (ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski) quoting their tweet. I think that was pretty special.”