Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell had basketball fans all over the country questioning whether or not their team made the right pick in last year’s draft, including fans of the Los Angeles Lakers, after he dominated in his rookie season.
The Rookie of the Year candidate led the Jazz to 48 wins in the regular season and helped Utah upset the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs. For obvious reasons, Lakers fans really were especially appreciative of that last part.
In an interview on “The Woj Pod” with Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Mitchell reflected on his impressive rookie campaign and talked about players he drew inspiration from to get through the grueling 82-game schedule. To no surprise, he named Kobe Bryant as one of those players.
“I put 100 percent of my concentration in what’s being told to me, so I can be the best. One guy I’ve watched incredibly a lot is Kobe, and I was never a Kobe fan growing up. I was all ‘Team LeBron.’ That was the debates we’d have in school. And I get to the league, and the first thing I noticed was his mentality, his concentration, his work ethic is unmatched, and that’s why I like him and Russell Westbrook. Those two guys, their work ethic is unmatched.”
In May, Bryant devoted an episode of his show “Detail,” available exclusively on ESPN+, to Mitchell’s postseason debut, where he scored 27 points on 11-of-22 shooting from the field while grabbing 10 rebounds. According to Mitchell, he watched it a handful of times, despite admittedly not growing up a fan of Bryant.
Maybe Mitchell’s newfound fondness of Bryant will pay dividends when the 21-year-old guard hits free agency in roughly a decade. However, until then, he and the Jazz are serious threats to the Lakers’ playoff hopes next season. Mitchell can admire the Mamba all he wants, let’s just hope he doesn’t pick up on too much.