In less than two seasons as a professional basketball player, Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell has earned plenty of recognition — he’s won a Slam Dunk competition during All-Star Weekend, he’s been twice named the Western Conference Player of the Week by the NBA, and he’s earned myriad praise for his willingness to embed himself in the local community through public appearances and acts of charity.
And now he has a bridge named after him.
In a ceremony that took place Tuesday afternoon, the pedestrian bridge at the 100 S. Rio Grande Street corner of the Gateway shopping mall — a mere two blocks from the front entrance to Vivint Smart Home Arena — was named in Mitchell’s honor, and a graffiti-style mural of him commissioned by the Gateway and the Jazz was unveiled.
After Vicki Varela (Managing Director, Utah Office of Tourism and Film), Ana Valdemoros (Salt Lake City Council — 4th District), and David J. Larcher (President of Vestar, which owns the Gateway) praised Mitchell for “integrating himself into the city” and “endearing himself to the Utah community,” the guard himself took the stage to address an adoring crowd of a few hundred fans.
“This is incredible, to be able to have a bridge dedicated in my honor. It’s humbling, knowing where I came from,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t expect to be in the NBA, let alone win the dunk contest, let alone make the playoffs, let alone be where we are today in our playoff position … and have a bridge named after me. I still can’t comprehend that.”
Apparently, neither could some of his teammates. Told during Tuesday’s practice preceding the event that Mitchell was to have a bridge named in his honor, teammate and friend Royce O’Neale responded with light-hearted disbelief.
“What? A bridge?! Where’s it at? I’ll go drive on it," he said, holding back laughter. "… Can they put, ‘P.S., Royce O’Neale’ on it, too?”
At the conclusion of the event, Mitchell did a quick Q&A, posed for pictures with the speakers, met with artists Jared Ander Smith and Chuck Landvatter (who began working on the mural just this past Thursday), signed a few autographs and walked around to take pictures with fans.
But it was his parting words to the audience from the dais, an acknowledgement of the games yet to be played, that perhaps made him most beloved yet:
“It’s gonna be a fun two months — three months!” he quickly corrected. “We’re playing into June!”