Donovan Mitchell disappointed dunk fans when he recently announced he wouldn’t defend his Dunk Contest crown this year. They’re going to be even more disappointed to hear he was cooking up a couple of crazy ones—you know, just in case he had a change of heart—that probably won’t see the light of day.  

“A lot of them involve props and other stuff so I don’t think I’ll be able to throw those down,” he says.

Bowing out of the event that, he admits, took a lot out of him last season was the smart move for the second year star as the Jazz fight every night to hold onto one of the last playoff spots in the Western Conference. But after exploding onto the scene last season, Mitchell has become a hot commodity as evidenced by his signature sneaker scheduled to drop later this year and the new endorsement he just picked up.   

We caught up with the one of the most exciting young guards in basketball to talk about joining the family of elite athletes that are BODYARMOR endorsers, the coolest thing about having a signature sneaker, his conversations with Kobe Bryant, and why he thought he wasn’t going to get drafted.   

(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

What appealed to you about BODYARMOR that you're now part of the family?
First off, I want to thank BODYARMOR for taking the chance on me. But for me, I look at guys like Kobe, I look at guys like James Harden, you know, and I’ve always studied guys who take care of their bodies in many different ways. For me, I love the way Kobe and James play, obviously. So one thing that stood out to me is what they put into their bodies. So when I first heard about BODYARMOR, I did some research and the fact that it’s better for you and there’s no artificial ingredients that just really appealed to me. It’s better for you. That’s the biggest thing from my first to second year that I’m really looking forward to is bettering myself on and off the floor.  

How cool is it to be associated with the elite level athletes in the BODYARMOR family like Kobe, Harden, Andrew Luck, Mike Trout, and others?
It’s a blessing. For me to be in that group from watching basketball to watching football to watching baseball, it’s really special because it shows they took a chance on me at a young age. That makes me want to level my game up and make it even better because of the amount of faith they have in me and it’s really cool to have your name next to Anthony Rizzo and Mike Trout, who I love.

Did you have a chance to talk to Kobe about coming into the family and talk basketball and business with him?
My conversations with Kobe have mainly been about basketball. When I got hurt after the Houston [playoff] series [last year], he was a guy I reached out to because I wanted to know about his preparation going into that season after he got hurt. Obviously, he’s a magician with what he does. He’s a perfectionist. Having a guy like that, who I can talk to on a regular basis, is really special. I asked him what type of stuff did he do and he gave me tips. I can’t list all of them. Stuff that at the time it was like, “Man, he does all this and is still ok?” But it just shows how much you have to do in order to be at a high level like he was.

Was it difficult saying no to the Dunk Contest this year?
It was a tough decision, obviously. But the way I felt after the Dunk Contest, mentally and physically, the second half of the season, those first few games I was really tired. I wasn’t myself. I think, for me, to be the best teammate and best player, I think I need to be myself and I need to feel more lively. Being in the Dunk Contest takes a lot of focus and concentration. And I don’t want to do something and go halfway through it. If I do something I want to give it my all. And that wouldn’t have been the case had I gone this year. I would’ve been focused on other things like the playoffs and winning a championship.

Donovan Mitchell Dunk Vertical 2019
Image via USA Today Sports/Chris Nicoll

Were you cooking up some dunks regardless or did you know you weren't doing it again this season?
I actually had a few. I had a few planned out. It wasn’t until maybe a month ago until I decided this wasn’t the right decision for me. But I had a few picked out.

So are those dunks ever going to see the light of day?
Maybe in warmups you might. But a lot of them involve props and other stuff so I don’t think I’ll be able to throw those down.

You're definitely in the discussion for an All-Star nod. Does it matter if you earn one?
For me, I honestly would love to be an All-Star, it would be an amazing accomplishment. But right now, I’m just really just focused on playing my game and being the best I can be. I think the adjustment period, for me, took a little longer for me than I anticipated, from year one to year two. Right now I’m really putting all my energy and my focus to keeping this little groove we’ve got. If I make it, I’ll be elated and ecstatic. If I don’t, then we have a second half of the season and playoffs. And that’s what it’s really all about.

I remember reading somewhere you thought you weren't going to be a first round pick. That's true, right?
Yes it is.

You have this crazy athleticism, you went to this renowned program in Louisville, you were a late lottery pick, what prevented you from thinking you were worthy of a first round pick?
I’m very hard on myself in whatever it may be. For me, my biggest thing was I just thought I needed maybe another year. I honestly thought I wasn’t going to get drafted. I had a conversation with Chris Paul and Paul George and they told me I was nuts for thinking that. But there was a good long while where I didn’t really believe I was good enough to make it because I’m so hard on myself.

Adidas unveiled your own signature sneaker recently, was the process everything you dreamed it would be?
That and more. For me, I’m not the type of guy to pick out the sole, the tongue, and the heel. I like to see the finished product and then evaluate from there. For me, I just really loved the fact Adidas blessed me to have my own shoe, but on top of that, it was pretty special that they allowed me to be so intricate with the process. There were real adamant with me coming in and being like, “What do I want to see here? What colors do I want?” That’s what was really cool about the process.

What's going to be coolest part of having a signature shoe: Will it be giving your input during the design process, lacing them up before a game, seeing other guys rocking them, or seeing people walking around in them?
I think seeing other people wear them would be the coolest thing for me. I still can’t get over people wearing my jersey. Even when I drive by, they have no idea that I’m right next to them, I think that’s cool. But to see kids wearing my shoes will be really, really special for me. I didn’t expect to be drafted let alone a shoe, too. This whole thing is just a blessing for me.