CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – How does a kid from New York become a Cleveland Cavaliers fan?
Two words: LeBron James.
“I had the Cavs jersey on when I was like 5 or 6. I was a LeBron James fan, but I was a Cleveland fan,” said Donovan Mitchell. “It's crazy how life comes full circle.”
Fresh off being christened as the newest member of Cavaliers following a blockbuster trade with the Utah Jazz, Mitchell speaks with a reverence about being a Cleveland sports fan.
“I was at the decision,” Mitchell said of James’ infamous special from the Boys and Girls Club in Greenwich Connecticut. “I remember seeing the reaction when he came back and going up and winning that championship. That was a special moment.”
If Mitchell has anything to say about it, he’ll have his own special moment in a Wine and Gold uniform. He remembers exactly where he was when Cleveland became a city of champions again punctuated by James exclaiming: “Cleveland! This is for you!”
“I was in Louisville in my dorm screaming and making fun of my friends who bet against him,” Mitchell said.
With his acquisition, the Cavaliers may be a safe bet to make a deep run in the Eastern Conference. But it’s been a long road to return to contention in Cleveland and Mitchell seems to understand that. He’ll join a nucleus that features Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, who have galvanized the fanbase in the post-Lebron era,
“I didn't realize how many Cleveland fans there are in America, in the world. Once I got traded, everywhere people are walking up like, 'I'm from Cleveland' or 'I'm a Cleveland fan,’” Mitchell said. “I'm just like, wow, like I have no idea. And like I said, the love and support you get from the fans is truly incredible.”
The support Mitchell has already received from Wine and Gold faithful has been almost overwhelming. From the moment he touched down at Burke Lakefront Airport, he was greeted by hundreds on the tarmac.
“It blew me away. It truly it makes you feel appreciated, for one,” Mitchell said. “I think the biggest thing is you want to give your heart and soul for people that show up for you.”
Mitchell can appreciate that support. It’s that same dedication that he gives to his game, and he sees the same commitment from his new supporting cast.
“It’s the little things that really go a long way. I appreciate that because on a night in and night out basis, we're going to be up working and continue to fight for the city and then to bring this city another championship.”
The three-time All-Star’s whirlwind offseason now plants him firmly in Northeast Ohio, but Mitchell wasn’t quite sure it was always going to end up that way. Following a disappointing end to the season in Utah, he had one destination in mind.
“I thought for sure I was going back home (to New York), I'm going to lie about that,” Mitchell said. “But you know what? I found out where I was headed, who was playing with, the group, the team, the coaching staff. I couldn't be more happier.”
Mitchell hasn’t lived at home since he was in 8th grade. Between boarding school, college and a five-year career in Utah, the opportunity to return to the Northeast was one that was intriguing.
“Obviously who doesn’t want to be home, next to their mom. It would’ve been nice,” Mitchell said. “But once I found out I traded and what we’re going into, that trumped everything.”
Now, Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse is his home. He already looked comfortable in his introductory press conference surrounded by his agent, his friends and, of course, his mom.
A building that features elaborate pyrotechnics for its pregame introductions, Mitchell is ready to make a bang.
“Between the fire and the intros. I remember the little things,” he said. “I loved playing in this arena. So to be here, I’m really excited.”