SALT LAKE CITY — Before Donovan Mitchell captivated yet another Utah audience with his charm and demeanor, Vivint Smart Home president Alex Dunn had a story to tell about a time he was almost famous.
“I don’t usually get noticed in public,” Dunn told a crowd of about 500 attending a charity event Monday night at Vivint Arena.
“So,” he continued, “when I came into the charity (event) I was pretty excited. There were a bunch of kids rushing me and I thought, ‘Wow. I’m famous!’”
That moment of fame was fleeting, Dunn admitted to the Game Night audience in attendance to help support autism awareness and rub shoulders with Jazz players.
Annual charity event "Game Night with the @utahjazz" raised $400,000+ to support children with intellectual disabilities -- like autism -- and their families through @VivintGivesBack and @LHM Charities. THANK YOU! pic.twitter.com/JEDt8MLfx9— Utah Jazz Doing Good (@JazzDoingGood) October 2, 2018
How long did it last?
“Until I turned around and Donovan was standing behind me,” he said, “and they all ran by me.”
Gordon Hayward jerseys in Beehive State sporting goods stores know how he feels.
During the program portion of the Game Night with the Utah Jazz event — formerly the Leapin’ Leaners and Hightops charity shindig — Mitchell played a different role than usual. The star guard conducted a heartwarming interview with an autistic teenager, 15-year-old Mason.
The 12-minute session was one of the highlights of a night that included basketball games, locker room tours, golf simulator play, board games, video games, Hollywood-style games and interactions with Jazz players, an entertaining Family Feud duel between teams captained by Joe Ingles and Jae Crowder vs. Royce O’Neale and Georges Niang, and a silent auction.
The night was in line with the late Larry H. Miller’s philanthropic mantra, “Go about doing good until there’s too much good in the world.”
Mitchell willingly did his part on this night — as usual. It was a cause that hits close to home for him, too. He has a 16-year-old cousin with autism, so he was touched that the Miller family, Vivint and the Jazz organization put on a fundraiser like this.
“It’s awesome to see an event like this where we’re giving back to kids who need it,” said Mitchell, whose cousin was excited to meet him this summer after they hadn’t seen each other in three years. “Not a lot of people do that in the world, not enough people do that in the world.”
Mitchell then played the role of reporter — a noble calling — and asked the ninth-grader some questions.
Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell appears at the team’s Game Night to support autism awareness. Here he is chatting with 15-year-old Mason, who suffers from autism. Mitchell says he has a teenage cousin also battling the disorder. #TakeNote pic.twitter.com/UbHrawCqOu— Eric Woodyard (@E_Woodyard) October 2, 2018
What is your favorite sport?
Basketball, football, baseball and soccer.
Which sports do you play?
Tackle football. I’m thinking I’m going to join the basketball team. (Mitchell jokingly responded, “I couldn’t play football. I didn’t like getting hit.”)
Favorite sports team?
My favorite sports team is BYU. “Any BYU fans?” (Scattered cheers.) Mitchell joked that he didn’t want to cause any problems by asking about BYU and Utah in this setting.
Who is your favorite Utah Jazz player?
Mason: “Well, I was going to say Rudy Gobert, but …” (Laughs)
Mitchell: “I like that answer.”
Mason went on to correctly name mascots for BYU (Cougars), Clemson (Tigers), Duke (Blue Devils — an answer Mitchell admitted his coach, former Dookie Quin Snyder, would like), Arizona State (Sun Devils) and the Jazz player’s favorite, Louisville (Cardinals).
When Mason said he was considering growing up to be a postman or a police officer, Mitchell informed the teen that he wanted to be a firefighter when he was younger. “Every time I see a fire truck, I have to stop to watch it drive by.”
When Mason said he was nervous trying to get around his high school (Juab in Nephi), Mitchell thoughtfully empathized by telling him, “I didn’t know where to go, either.”
Mitchell concluded the interview by telling Mason, “You’re an inspiration.”
An ever-growing portion of Utah feels the same way about Mitchell.