With A Cleveland Cavs Culture That Fits, Donovan Mitchell Reflects On What’s Holding the Utah Jazz Franchise Back

donovan Mitchell reflects on time in Utah, racial challenges
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Donovan Mitchell is out of Utah and is thriving in Cleveland. He’s having the best year of his career as the clear lead man of a rising Cavs roster that looks primed to contend for NBA championships in the near future.

The Cavs are in third place overall in the Eastern Conference, just one game behind the Milwaukee Bucks and a half game behind the Boston Celtics.

What Racial Problems Did Donovan Mitchell Have In Utah?

Now that he’s escaped the clutches of the Utah Jazz, he’s sort of gone on a tell-all spree of his time in Utah and why things didn’t work out there. 

The guard recently spoke about his experiences in Utah, and more specifically about the cultural dynamics that he felt contributed to a lot of racial injustice and inequities in that city. 

“If I’m being honest with you, I never really said this, but it was draining,” Mitchell said. “It was just draining on my energy just because you can’t sit in your room and cheer for me and then do all these different things,” Mitchell told Marc J Spears of Andscape. 

“I’m not saying specifically every fan, but I just feel like it was a lot of things. A [Utah] state senator [Stuart Adams] saying I need to get educated on my own Black history. Seeing Black kids getting bullied because of their skin color. Seeing a little girl [Isabella Tichenor] hang herself because she’s being bullied.

“Man, it was just one thing after another. And I will say, it’s not the only place it happens. But for me, I’m continuing to be an advocate for [racial equality] and to receive the amount of pushback I got over the years, it was a lot,” Mitchell told Spears.

This is nothing new as far as the Black experience as an athlete playing in predominantly white cities in front of white fans. The culture isn’t the same across America.

While he wasn’t very vocal about his experiences in Utah while he was excelling there, it seems like Mitchell was emotionally and mentally done with Salt Lake City before he was ever traded to the Cavaliers. 

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Mitchell explains that it wasn’t just moments he perceived as patterns of social injustice and racial inequality in Utah that drove him out, but also the interpersonal relationships with other players and staff within the organization.

Why Didn’t Donovan Mitchell And Rudy Gobert Get Along? 

One name on everyone’s radar is Rudy Gobert.

“Honestly, basketball just didn’t work. We live in such a world where it has to be really negative,” Mitchell explained. “Basketball just didn’t work. We didn’t see eye to eye. We wanted to both win, but we wanted to do it two different ways. It didn’t work. But as far as him and I go as people, I don’t hate him, and he doesn’t hate me. I wouldn’t say we’re the best of friends, but we’re not at the point where it’s like, I can’t stand him.”

The beef between the two stars wasn’t as deep as fans hyped it to be on social media, but one thing everyone was right about was that their split began when Gobert jumpstarted the NBA COVID incident that practically shut the league down for a while.

Rudy Gobert Gave Donovan Mitchell COVID

The COVID-19 calamity back in 2020 that basically led to the NBA shutting down made some NBA analysts describe the relationship as “unsalvageable.”

The early reports of COVID-19 were just rolling in and Gobert, after discussing the Jazz’s new COVID-19 protocols during a media conference, jokingly touches every mic and recorder in front of him before he leaves. He was the first to publicly mock the virus and the first NBA player to be diagnosed with it. Two days later, teammate Mitchell was diagnosed, and the rest is history.

“But honestly, it really started with COVID. Everything we did up to that point was under a microscope to the point where we were getting evaluated on how many times, we threw the ball [to each other],” Mitchell said.

Will Donovan Mitchell Ever Return To Utah Jazz?

Though Mitchell probably will never play for the Utah Jazz again, he doesn’t hold anything but positive feelings for the franchise. He won’t forget some of the incredible moments he had there either, despite the fact that they didn’t win a championship in Utah.

“We did a lot of special things. We set records. Had the best record in the league. We did a lot of things. It’s easy to say, ‘Oh, we didn’t win, so we didn’t do anything.’ But we did a lot of special things. It taught me a lot of lessons that have honestly helped me get to where I’m at to this day. I met a lot of special people, special coaches, special players.

“But other than that, at the end of the day, we didn’t get the job done. But I’m forever grateful for my time there. I appreciate it, and appreciate my coaches, my teammates, and appreciate them all that ultimately helped me be a better player.”

Mitchell will hope to have a much more successful time in Cleveland and hopefully bring a championship to Ohio.