When the Utah Jazz conducted a scrimmage Saturday afternoon that the team broadcasted on Zoom, one of the first noticeable things was that All-Star Donovan Mitchell was wearing jersey No. 22 as opposed to his usual No. 45.
The speculation during the scrimmage was that Mitchell was wearing the different number to honor Aaron Lowe and Ty Jordan, the Utah Utes football players who have died since last December and both wore it.
After the scrimmage, Mitchell confirmed that is indeed the reason he wore it Saturday. He said he also wore it during the team’s training camp this week in Las Vegas (it won’t be a permanent change).
Lowe was shot and killed last Sunday in Salt Lake City, and Jordan died of an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound on Christmas Day last year.
“Obviously the Utes and all of Utah has paid their respects to not just Aaron but Ty as well. I just wanted to pay my own respects in my own way,” he said. “I think that was the premise of it.”
It’s the latest in a rather long line of similar gestures over the years from Mitchell. In February 2018, for example, he wrote messages on his shoes in memory of the victims of a school shooting in Florida, and in October of that year, he wrote “Lauren McCluskey” on his shoes for a game after the University of Utah track and field athlete was shot and killed on campus.
Mitchell said doing things such as these is simply his way of paying tribute to those victims.
“Honestly, if I wasn’t who I am, I’d still be doing it,” he said. “My thing is, at the end of the day, why change? I have a platform. I have a voice. I have an ability to inspire people, to, in this instance, pay tribute, pay homage to people, so why not do it? I would do the same thing if I was back in high school. It’s just me not changing.
“Obviously when you’re put on this platform, people do look to you in certain instances. It just comes with it, and so for me, I use it for the positive continuously, and I’m going to continue to do that because that’s just who I am and who I would’ve been if I wasn’t Donovan Mitchell playing for the Utah Jazz. If I was Donovan Mitchell who was still (in college) at Louisville, still in high school, I’d still be doing the same thing, so I figure there’s no need to change just because I’m at this point.”