What do you get the elders in your life on a special occasion?
For Donovan Mitchell, one of those elders is Dwyane Wade, the 12-time All-Star who has repeatedly connected with the Jazz superstar on everything from A to Z since Mitchell came into the league. And to celebrate Wade’s final game in Salt Lake City — Wade has announced this is his final NBA season — Mitchell took Wade to dinner and got him a retirement gift.
“The rocking chair was kind of our little way of saying ‘Welcome into your new life outside the NBA,'” Mitchell said, after their night out at Valter’s Osteria in downtown Salt Lake City.
But that he can poke fun of the 36-year-old Wade in this way says a lot about the relationship between the two men. Mitchell says he calls Wade frequently, when he needs advice on anything inside the painted lines of an NBA court or even how to handle the attention of everything outside of it.
“We talk all the time. That’s me, calling and asking. For him to take that time out of his day is special," Mitchell said. "You hear about guys getting complacent in this league, but I’m not one of those people, I want to learn more.”
The first two connected, Mitchell says, thanks to the words of wisdom he received from NBA general managers throughout the interview process. Mitchell thought of himself as more like Russell Westbrook, the former MVP in Oklahoma City, but league decision makers saw Wade.
“As I watched more and more, I got an understanding of what was being said. The build, the change of pace, the explosiveness. We were really similar,” Mitchell said.
It was a comparison Wade saw, too. “When Donovan’s playing, I like to tune in, I watch him play a little bit — he’s exciting. He reminds me of myself in some ways. We’re both undersized, not only for the position, but also for what we’re capable of doing. I was undersized, 6-4, and being able to block shots. He’s explosive, exciting, tough. He’s better than I was from a shooting standpoint.”
Wade wasn’t the first NBA star Mitchell was connected with through their shared agency, Creative Artists Agency, that was Chris Paul and Paul George. But Wade and Mitchell did eventually exchange contact info. Now, they exchange phone conversations, some even up to 2-hours long, on what it is to be a smaller star scoring guard in the NBA.
“I’m surprised he hasn’t gotten tired of it, me asking him questions,” Mitchell said.
On Wednesday night, Mitchell had one of his best two-way performances of the season, scoring 21 points on 9 of 17 shooting to go along with some terrific defense. It was, in many ways, evocative of the kind of games Wade was known for: solid play throughout his time on the floor, punctuated by highlight-reel plays on both ends.