Donovan Mitchell reflects on time in Utah before first game against Jazz: ‘It was just draining on my energy’


No NBA city is perfect, but Salt Lake City is the one market that consistently causes problems between players and fans. The Utah Jazz have played there for more than 40 years, but the common denominator of those days is that the players were upset about the actions of the fans there. Both Russell Westbrook and Ja Morant have run afoul of those fans in recent years, but even Utah’s players have had trouble connecting with them.

One such player is Donovan Mitchell. He spent the first five seasons of his career in Utah, but now that he’s a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, he’s opening up about how the fans treated him in his NBA hometown.

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“It’s no secret that I was dealing with a lot of things when I was in Utah,” Mitchell told Andscaped’s Mark J. Spears. “To be honest with you, I’ve never said this, but it was draining. You sitting in your room cheering me on, and then not being able to do all of that, draining my energy. I’m not talking about every single fan, but I have a lot of them. I feel like there was something [Utah] state senator [Stuart Adams] I said I needed to be educated on my Black history. Seeing black kids being bullied because of their skin color. A little girl is watching [Isabella Tichenor] He hanged himself because he was being bullied.”

Now playing in a more diverse Cleveland, Mitchell called it “a blessing to be back around people like me.” He also talked about his relationship with a police officer. “I got pulled over once. I went to the police until I gave him my license,” Mitchell explained. “And it made me think about what happens to a young black boy in Utah who doesn’t have the power to say, ‘This is who I am.’ That was one of those things that touched my heart.”

Unfortunately, racism exists in all NBA markets, and indeed throughout the United States. It cannot be completely avoided. But Mitchell’s stories about Utah have little to do with his experiences there. Many players have expressed their concerns with the fans in Salt Lake City. Mitchell is happy to have found a new home, but it’s unfortunate that he had to deal with these issues in the first place.


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