For the time being, Donovan Mitchell is confined to the sidelines.
The Utah Jazz All-Star has been forced to wait and watch his teammates surge toward the NBA playoffs over the past two weeks as he recovers from a sprained right ankle.
“When life brings you challenges and puts you on the sideline, the question is: Will you come back stronger?” Mitchell said Thursday.
The NBA superstar, however, wasn’t discussing his rehab from injury.
Mitchell delivered the University of Utah’s commencement address on Thursday, reminding the Class of 2021 how strong they have been to endure, especially over the past year, and urging them to be a generation that leads our world into better times.
“As you start this new chapter, hold the confidence that you can face tremendous uncertainty and that you can adapt to unexpected challenges,” Mitchell said, addressing the graduates via video. “… Celebrate that you kept at it, that you did the work to come back stronger. Keep that fire. Let it carry you forward. Let it remind you not to waste a moment on things that aren’t important to you. Let it remind you to bring focus and purpose to whatever you do next — especially when you face obstacles.”
Mitchell encouraged the graduating class to find mentors they respect, and to block out the negativity that is particularly pervasive on social media.
“Listen to yourself and to the people who care about you,” he said. “Be inspired by the journeys of others, but don’t let comparison or criticism on social media discourage you or rush you on your own path.”
Mitchell shared stories of his own setbacks — a broken wrist in high school he thought could cost him on the recruiting circuit, youthful foolishness that harmed his academic progress at points — and how he worked to overcome them.
Mitchell left the University of Louisville after his sophomore year to pursue his dream of playing in the NBA. But on Thursday, the Jazz guard reaffirmed his commitment to completing his schooling.
“I understand the value of education,” he said. “You’ve all beat me to it but getting a college degree will definitely be part of my own path. At the end of the day, the air runs out in the basketball. But education is something that lasts your whole life.”
Mitchell encouraged the graduates to make the most of their own paths as they begin the next chapters of their lives.
“As you go forward, you have the opportunity to make so much possible—for yourself, for your family, and for the country,” he said. “You have the opportunity to make your life bigger than your professional path, to pursue what brings you joy, and to make a positive difference in the lives of others.
“And when the path gets hard, imagine that the entire crowd in Vivint Arena is cheering for you. We all know the energy in Vivint beats any other arena. That is the energy of Utah. We are all cheering for you.”