Draper • When you ask Donovan Mitchell about his summer, the first thing he tells you about is his Delta SkyMiles total.
And why not? It’s the perfect mathematical summation of Mitchell’s whirlwind summer, one that has seen the Jazz guard travel all over the world to meet his teammates, work with sponsors, and see the world while he can.
It began with a trip to New York, going back home to be with family for a couple of days immediately after the season. Then Mitchell flew to Greece, then the Philippines, where he was surprised to find his popularity had extended all over the world.
“They know me. They know my story, they know my stats. They know like everything,” Mitchell said. “It’s pretty cool to see the people who I’m reaching around the entire world. “
In between, Mitchell stopped in Serbia to meet teammate Ekpe Udoh to watch the EuroLeague Final Four. The passion of the European fans blew Mitchell away.
“The drums, the screaming and the yelling, security was in riot gear, ready for anything to happen. No alcohol was served because they had been drinking for like three days straight,” Mitchell laughed. “It’s an environment that you have to go there to experience.” Later, when he attended his first Real Salt Lake game this month in Sandy, he said the soccer atmosphere reminded him of the basketball one he saw in Serbia.
Mitchell also saw familiar signs of home in the plays the Euroleague teams were running. “A lot of our plays were run that game,” Mitchell noted. “I texted coach [Quin Snyder] and said ‘I see where you get the plays from and the names, too.’”
Staying connected with his teammates has also been an important goal for Mitchell this summer. After meeting Udoh in Serbia, Mitchell worked with the Jazz summer league group, first in Utah during the squad’s training camp and Utah Summer League stint, then traveling to Las Vegas for the NBA Summer League. He joined Rudy Gobert, Raul Neto, Dante Exum, Jae Crowder, Royce O’Neale, and Alec Burks in cheering on Grayson Allen, Georges Niang, and other summer league players on the roster.
Mitchell also spent some time with Ricky Rubio in Barcelona — “Ricky’s house is really nice,” Mitchell made sure to note — before shooting a commercial for Adidas with Houston Rockets’ guard and league MVP James Harden. After they shot the commercial, Harden worked out with Mitchell alongside Jazz assistant coach Johnnie Bryant.
And after spending Pioneer Day in Utah, Mitchell headed to China with Take-Two, the makers of the “NBA 2K” video game. They chose to have Mitchell on the cover of next year’s version of “NBA 2K Online 2,” a Chinese-only version of the popular worldwide game.
On Sunday night, it was back to Utah, arriving home just after midnight. He had a 6 a.m. wakeup call for Monday’s youth basketball camp, hosting 300 kids at Juan Diego High School to give back to the Utah community.
“We were trying to figure out how to make it work, and we had to make it work,” Nicole Mitchell, Donovan’s mother, said in between camps. “We felt that the Utah community has been so extremely open and welcoming to him. It’s the right thing to do.”
Through it all, Mitchell has used Salt Lake City as his home base. He’s gone to 4th of July barbecues, a performance by Kevin Hart at Vivint Arena, and many more events around town. And of course, he continues to work out with Jazz coaches and trainers to get ready for the upcoming season. Mitchell will start practicing twice a day at the Zions Bank Basketball Center in the first part of August, along with many of his Jazz teammates.
“For me to go out there and experience all of this, it’s been really cool, really special,” Mitchell said “But I understand how much more work I have to do to get to the level of James [Harden] and Dame [Lillard], all of those guys.”