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SALT LAKE CITY — Last weekend, Donovan Mitchell was able to fulfill a promise.
For a while now, Mitchell has been meaning to get to one of Utah Jazz assistant coach Mike Wells' son Trent's games. Having an NBA schedule has made that pretty difficult, especially when you throw in pandemic protocols.
But on Saturday, Mitchell found the time. So he snuck into a packed gym featuring multiple middle school-aged kid teams to watch Trent. When you're one of the most famous people in the state, it's hard to be that sneaky, though.
It didn't take long for someone to notice that the Utah Jazz All-Star was in the crowd. Soon enough one selfie turned to two to three and so on. The word spread that Mitchell was in the crowd, and once Trent's game was over, he was greeted by a crowd of fans.
Mitchell spent a rare off day taking pictures and talking with dozens of the young basketball players.
"Being able to be at the game was cool, to be in that environment, that's what it's about," Mitchell said following Utah's blowout win over Houston Monday. "Just being here showing support — that makes kids' days, weeks, months, years, lives — and also just watching basketball."
It's far from the first time Mitchell has done something of the sort; he frequently asks for high school games to attend on Twitter. In the past, he's gone to check out Wasatch Academy and saw current BYU Cougar Dallin Hall when he was playing at Fremont.
"I'm trying to catch a girls game next," Mitchell said.
I was coaching 8th grade basketball games yesterday when all my players ran up telling me that @spidadmitchell was there. Just hanging out, watching a bunch of 13 and 14 year olds play basketball. He probably took 150 pictures with kids. Donovan gets it. We're lucky pic.twitter.com/TupQf4aOEW— Carsen Williams (@carsenwill21) February 13, 2022
As Mitchell spoke about his weekend appearance, he was asked who was the first NBA player he met. The answer revealed an interesting tidbit about Mitchell's life in prep school when he was about the same age as the kids he took pictures with over the weekend.
Mitchell, at 6-foot-1, has unusually large feet. His official shoes are a 15 base with a 16 width. So growing up, it was difficult to find shoes that fit.
Luckily, his family knew a former equipment manager with the New York Knicks — and Mitchell was able to get connected with Eddy Curry, who gifted Mitchell some shoes.
That, though, made for an interesting ensemble. At prep school, he was expected to be in a uniform of khakis, a jacket and dress shoes. The orange Curry shoes don't really fit that mold.
"I am out here wearing these bright ass orange Kobes and all that other stuff," Mitchell said, laughing. "It was great because they were free."
He lated added: "I thought I was the coolest kid around. Turns out my swag was terrible."
He said he initially got some push back about the shoes, but added that they let it slide since it was a unique situation. His family couldn't really afford custom shoes and he was on the basketball team, too. So at least the big bright shoes made somewhat sense.
"Thankfully, they understood my situation," Mitchell said.
As a kid, he always wondered why the former Knicks center was just handing out shoes; now, he totally gets it. With his own shoe deal, he has more boxes of shoes than he knows what to do with as an adult.
"I have too many to count," Mitchell said. "I don't have the space."
So he might as well make a kids' day — just like he did last weekend for a bunch of middle schoolers.