CHICAGO — Fans pressed up against the railings, clamoring for autographs and shrieking with excitement each time they saw a celebrity or player at the NBA All-Star practice on Saturday.
“Oh my God, it’s Kyle Lowry! It’s Kyle Lowry!”
“That’s Darryl from ‘The Office!’ Oh my goodness. I’m in shock right now. That’s crazy!”
“Rudy! Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!”
And those were just a few of the times Donovan Mitchell has found himself starstruck at All-Star Weekend.
The Utah Jazz guard and his All-Star teammate Rudy Gobert have dreamed of this moment since they were kids—and that’s exactly how they want to enjoy it now that it’s here.
“I’m not Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz right now; I’m Donovan Mitchell, 13-year-old,” he said as he spoke with reporters the day before making his All-Star debut. “I’m going to keep having those moments because everybody doesn’t get to do this. There are only, what, 24 of us? To be able to do this is amazing.
“I plan on doing this for many years to come, but I’m really focused on the moment now. If you start to overlook it, that’s when you lose what’s right in front of you.”
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 15, 2020
At the same time Mitchell fielded a barrage of questions from reporters from around the world, Gobert sat just slightly more than an arm’s length (for someone 7-9 wingspan) away from his teammate and shared a similar sentiment.
“I just want to have a good time,” he said of his All-Star goals.
So Gobert and Mitchell have been all smiles since arriving in Chicago, whether that be at an NBA2K event, helping out at a local food pantry and basketball clinic, chatting with NBA legends, sitting courtside at the league’s celebrity game, or working on TNT’s broadcast of the Rising Stars Challenge.
“It’s amazing,” Gobert said. “I’m very excited to be here, very excited to represent my team with Donovan, and represent my country. After seven years, to be able to get to my first All-Star Game means a lot.
“… There have been some ups and downs but it’s been a great journey. I’m excited to represent all of those guys and the fans. They really have our backs. They’re going to have fun watching us represent the team.”
The day before they would make their All-Star debuts, Mitchell and Gobert each reflected on their paths to the NBA’s showcase game, recalling the highs and lows, doubters and supporters along the way.
Mitchell had said he had been too busy, too focused on the regular season to let the reality of his situation sink in over the last two weeks. That changed when he arrived in Chicago.
“It hit me when I landed. I’m an All-Star. I’m here,” he said. “It’s pretty cool. It’s one of those things I’m never going to get over. It’s something I’ll never get used to.”
As a kid, Mitchell watched the game each year, marveled at LeBron James throw down highlight-reel dunks, was hyped when Shaquille O’Neal danced through his 2009 All-Star introduction with the Jabbawockeez, was awed watching Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade on the court.
Mitchell shook his head his in disbelief.
“Now I’m that person,” he said.