Donovan Mitchell has been in the spotlight for the entire NBA offseason in 2022. His name had been at the center of trade rumors since last season ended, and then finally on Sept. 1, he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for a king’s ransom of draft picks and a number of young players.
On top of getting dealt to the playoff-hopeful Cavs, Mitchell is ready to roll out his fourth signature sneaker with Adidas this fall, continuing a partnership that he says has been nothing short of phenomenal.
“I recently said before in another interview, I had the original [Adidas] deal and after my first season they ripped it up and changed it and gave me my own shoe,” Mitchell says. “If that doesn’t say loyalty, then I don’t know what does.”
Mitchell has been repping the Three Stripes for more than just his time in the league, spending his lone college season at Adidas-affiliated Louisville. In working with Adidas for so long, Mitchell and the brand have tried to push the limits of on-court performance footwear.
Adidas claims the D.O.N. Issue #4 boasts the most efficient energy transformation in basketball, equipped with a new Lightlock upper and a Lightstrike Strobel midsole. Introductory colorways include core red and team black for “Future of Fast,” dash gray and bliss lilac for “Dream It,” core black and carbon for “Lights Out,” and off-white for “Achieve It.”
The Adidas D.O.N. Issue #4 will be available at select Adidas retailers on Oct. 1 for $110. Ahead of its launch, we walked to Mitchell at the Greenwich Country Day School in Connecticut last month. (The interview was conducted prior to Mitchell being traded to the Cavaliers on Sept. 1.) The conversation has been edited for clarity.
So I want to start with where we’re standing right now. Can you talk about the impact that Greenwich Country Day School had on you both on and off the court?
Growing up here, this is when I was a baseball player, basketball was secondary. Being in an area that’s not known for basketball is kind of one of those things where I wasn’t really locked in on it. Being able to be back here, I live here, and being able to just do what I do in this community, whether it’s, you know, the gym or the scholarships and being able to provide experiences for people that want to come by campus and just see what my life looks like. It’s always good to pay homage to where you came from and where you grew up around. For me just being able to do this here, I think it’s pretty special.
You mentioned the scholarships and you’ve done plenty of things to give back before. How important is it for people in your position to stand for things and give back to their communities?
I think it’s huge. I went to a predominantly white private school and since I’ve left, the number of students of color has gone up a bunch. But for me, just being able to do it in my name, with my family—my mom taught here, my sister went here—we’re all products of Country Day. And being able to do that, I think us athletes as a whole, I think is huge because we have such an influence. We have such a platform, we can make things known, we can talk about things, we can bring things to attention. And just being able to do that for the kids, for people who are underprivileged, being able to do that is something for me especially that I take pretty seriously, just because I was that kid. I was fortunate, I came here on scholarship. I didn’t pay to come here, and I was able to see things like that at an early age.
You’re on your fourth signature sneaker with Adidas now, Can you talk about the type of partner that they’ve been and how they’ve been throughout this process?
It’s been phenomenal. I recently said before in another interview, I had the original deal and after my first season, they ripped it up and changed it and gave me my own shoe. If that doesn’t say loyalty, then I don’t know what does. For me, that’s near and dear to my heart. I’m appreciative of it, but also I have work to do, to stay where I’m at and continue to get better, as do they.
It’s our partnership, we work collaboratively together and it’s been great. And the shoes that come out are amazing ever since I’ve been there. I’m looking forward to doing the Four, the Five, the Six, and keep going. But you know, just to continue to work with a brand that believes in you and has your back and also that supports you in what you want to do in your own interests is special. Whether it’s a commercial shoot here or giving back and doing different things, which I get to do, is pretty special.
What would the Don Mitchell who grew up playing baseball here say if you told him that you were on your fourth signature basketball sneaker?
I wouldn’t comprehend anything that he’s saying, to be honest. I would think he’s lying, I wouldn’t think it’s real. It’s still one of those things where I come back and the love I get from the kids whenever I pull up in my car, it’s still just like one of those things that is just surreal to me. I would just tell my young self, just stay the course and do things your way. Do things the way that you and your family believe, you know, not following the crowd. That’s not necessarily going to get you where you want to get to. Doing things a little bit unorthodox, like I didn’t really start playing basketball, like actually focusing on basketball, until my junior year of high school. So understanding that in itself has an advantage, because I didn’t get tired of the sport early.
I think nowadays we get so heavy on like, “You’re this at age like 12.” You know what I mean? I had to grow in order to get to this point. If you asked anybody who knew me in high school, who knew me here, I was good here, but I wasn’t the greatest basketball player. So I understand there’s gonna be tough times, there’s gonna be trials, gonna be tribulations. I wasn’t the best student. I ultimately grew to become a really good one after my junior and senior years in high school. But understanding that there’s gonna be different things that ultimately come into your life and how do you respond to them? How do you go about them? They ultimately dictate where you end up.
What do you think that young Donovan Mitchell would’ve wanted his shoe to look like?
Honestly, just like this. Mentally I’m still that kid when it comes to shoes, like colorful; obviously performance is super important. But I think for me, just the designs standing out bright, everybody seeing them. I think a lot of my colorways are like that, where everything’s bright. I’ve gotten better with keeping the colors matching with the uniforms. But anything bright, anything standing out, I’ve always loved.
You mentioned the performance. Can you speak to the changes that you’ve made to help you on the court for this shoe?
This shoe is probably the lightest, actually not probably, it is the lightest that we’ve done. We switched from Boost to Lightstrike. I think that was one of the biggest changes, with the intent of being fast, being quick, being explosive, obviously tailored to my game. But I think this change, with this way this shoe feels, you feel it when you hold the shoe versus other ones. You feel it, you know that there’s a difference. I think the fans, everybody will be really excited for when this one comes out, because you can feel the difference, the colorways, the advances that we have in this shoe are like none of the others.
Collabs have been a big part of your sneaker journey so far. Crayola, Marvel, etc. Can you speak to how much it means to be able to work with big brands like that?
It lets you know that people are interested in yourself, for me, whether it was Crayola or it was like Spider-Man, I think it is pretty special. I grew up watching Spider-Man; you’re watching it like everybody else and then now they want to work with you. It is pretty special in itself. We got a few more coming up with Xbox. I don’t want to give the rest of them away right now, but we got a bunch coming up and it’s pretty cool that I’m able to do these things and I’m able to pick and choose how I want to go about it, who I collaborate with, and vice versa. To really be able to say, “Hey, we wanna work with you.” The kid in me is pretty excited about all this.
Who’s your dream Adidas collaborator?
I worked with Pharrell, man, and that was something that was pretty special. We did it on the D.O.N. 2, so that was pretty, pretty special. Jerry Lorenzo, obviously, I think would be pretty sweet. He’s a baseball guy as well so that’s obviously something that would be pretty special to me. We’ve done something with Eric Emanuel with the Louisville shoes on the 3s, so you know I’m slowly getting there. Also, the collab I did with Will Smith was pretty special, the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. But I think Jerry would be next on my list to do something with him and hopefully tie baseball into it, kind of tie our backgrounds into it and go from there.
Outside of your shoe, what’s your favorite Adidas basketball shoe?
The Forums, for sure. I wear those a bunch and have a bunch at the house. They were out when I was a kid, maybe a little younger, maybe a little before I was born. I just love the colorways that they come in. I had my own Forum two years ago. So being able to wear those and bring those back and bring different colorways out is pretty dope.
What’s it like for you seeing other guys in the league wear a shoe with your name on it?
I’ve gotten used to it now, but before it was kind of just like, every time you see it, you’re watching on TV, like stop the camera, stop the TV, you kind of zoom in and look at it, but now you get used to it. It’s just a sign of respect, I think, in a way to the work that I’ve put in as a player, but also the work I’ve put in on my craft and in the shoe game. Being able to put something out that’s comfortable, that people want to wear, but also that looks nice, looks cool. I gotta put that out there. I think that’s something for me that is like a sign of respect.
Was there any specific moment or a specific player wearing your shoe where you really like, “Whoa, that’s crazy”?
Serge Ibaka had my shoes on, and I didn’t realize. I went up to him and I was like, “Since when?” and he was like, “Bro, I’ve been a fan of your shoes since forever.” I know Ricky Rubio, who’s been one of my greatest teammates, he wears my shoes all the time, Derrick Favors too. Those two guys, Ricky and D-Fav, still rock them all the time. I’m very appreciative of those two, but when Serge had them on, it threw me for a loop. One time I saw him on TV and then he told me he needed all the colors.
You’re moving into your sixth year in the league now. Is there anything you feel like you still have to prove to yourself or to fans?
Last year, the playoffs wasn’t the best year for myself or as a team, but just mainly for myself. I think for me, you know, coming into a season where I’m fully healthy, ready to go, locked in, and there’s a lot more things that I have left to prove not just myself, but also that I know I can do and get better at. You know, obviously talking about making it past the second round of the playoffs. I’ve been talking about that since I got to the league. I’ve been fortunate to make the playoffs every year, but it’s not about those little goals. It’s the end goal and getting to win a championship. Individual goals as well, All NBA, MVP, those are the goals that I’m definitely going for. But you know, like I said, last year was kind of a, a down year in the playoffs atypical to what I’ve typically done and understanding that you got some work to do on both sides of the ball and going into the offseason, ready to go, healthy, locked in.
In that same vein, especially with the NBA, everybody loves making lists. Where do you see yourself amongst the other top guards in the league?
I believe I’m one of the best. I can’t sit here and say that there is somebody better than me. I can’t, you can ask anybody, I won’t say that. I think I’m the best in my position and I have to go out there and prove it. Until I do that, until I continuously prove it on a night-to-night basis, I’m not satisfied. So for me, that’s where my head is at. Like I said, last year I wasn’t really happy with how I played and how I didn’t rise to the occasion. Naturally there’s going to be rankings based upon that. There’s gonna be people that say what they want to say, but I know what I can do. I know what I’ve been doing and I gotta go out there and just continue to work and get better.