He can dunk like Vinsanity. He can cut like a young MVP Derrick Rose. He can shoot threes better than rookie Damian Lillard or any rookie ever. Donovan Mitchell has been breaking through barriers for the Jazz organization and the NBA and it showed at the ESPYS on Wednesday night.
He went up against up and coming women’s tennis star Sloane Stephens, Fantasy Point king running back Alvin Kamara and his legendary nemesis for Rookie of the Year in Ben Simmons.
So what is it exactly that made Donovan Mitchell the breakthrough athlete of the year? When you combine natural athleticism with the hard work that he has put into the game, good things happen.
Sloane Stephens has been successful this year as she had one of the biggest underdog wins in the US Open as she was ranked 83rd. She also won the French Open. She fits the definition of a breakthrough athlete but this year there were a lot of impressive people to go up against. She’d probably should have been second in voting to Donovan Mitchell but it’s hard to say with the bias that tends to go towards certain sports.
Alvin Kamara turned the heads of many NFL fans and Fantasy Owners as he rushed for 728 yards while sharing significant rushing duties with Mark Ingram Jr. If you had one or both of these guys on your fantasy team they were probably helping you get a lot of wins. He helped the Saints win a Wild Card game but then witnessed an epic collapse by his defense against the Vikings in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
Ben Simmons turned heads after being injured in his rookie season. He has a LeBron like physique so he found a way to impact the game with crazy assist and rebound numbers for a point guard. His one knock was his outside shooting but he is still young and has time to develop that. He led the 76ers to the second round of the NBA Playoffs.
Why has Mitchell been more of a breakthrough athlete than these players? He has more than exceeded expectations. He was the first rookie since Carmelo Anthony to lead the team in scoring while also helping them make the playoffs. They went from a 19-28 lottery bound team to a 48 win team that won a playoff series.
One of the biggest reasons Mitchell has broken through barriers is he has embraced the people of Utah. He often can be found attending sporting events such as BYU basketball games, University of Utah football games or Real Salt Lake soccer games. He has made it cool to be a sports fan in Utah.
So it’s time for Jazz fans to say a prayer of thanks in their family home evenings everywhere for the golden Nugget the Jazz snatched from Denver. Mitchell city jerseys should be acceptable attire even for job interviews and church meetings all throughout the Beehive State. After all, he just believes he is your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man saving the Wasatch Mountain market from national irrelevancy. The Jazz already had a great defense led by Rudy Gobert and coaching by Quin Snyder, but they finally got that scorer that can get butts in seats by creating shots of the dribble, behind the three point arc and above the rim.
Donovan Mitchell is the state of Utah and he’s looking to shut down another mall near you with his presence.