Donovan Mitchell was born on September 7, 1996, to Donovan Mitchell Sr. and Nicole Wright. His parents separated sometime after his sister Jordan Mitchell was born and the Cleveland Cavaliers star grew up in a close-knit family with his mother and sister in New York.
Here’s what you need to know about Donovan Mitchell’s family:
1. Donovan Mitchell’s Father Was a Minor League Baseball Star & Now Works for the New York Mets
Mitchell’s father, Donovan Mitchell Sr., played minor league baseball in the 1990s. He was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 14th round of the MLB June Amateur Draft in the 14th round and played for the organization for several seasons.
In 1999, Mitchell Sr. joined the New York Mets as a minor league manager and coach. He worked his way up in the organization, moving up to manager then director of player relations, his LinkedIn shows. He now works for the Mets as the senior director of diversity, equity and inclusion and player relations.
When Mitchell was growing up, he recalled going to the Mets’ clubhouse with his father and spending time with the players and they were some of his favorite days, he told CBS Sports.
Although an injury as a sophomore in high school changed Mitchell’s course from baseball to basketball, he remains to this day a huge Mets fan.
2. Donovan Mitchell’s Mother Nicole Wright Pursued a Career in Education & Supported Her Son’s Basketball Dreams
Mitchell was always very close to his mother, Nicole Wright, growing up. Wright grew up in New York with two siblings, the children of Panamanian immigrants.
Wright became involved in education as a career but took an unconventional path to get there. She began working in the New York public school system as an accounts payable clerk, she told the Salt Lake Tribune, following jobs in banking.
However, when Wright began working with the school system, she said, “I spent more time in the hallways talking to the kids and the other teachers than I spent in my office. And that’s how I became involved in education.” She shared that she’d never considered a career in education and had found school “tricky” when she was younger.
“If you don’t have that foundation, you’re always one step behind,” she told the Tribune. “My family was just kind of figuring themselves out. So I had a normal education, then I got to college and found out, ‘Wow, there’s some really smart people out there.’”
When Mitchell was growing up, his mother sacrificed a lot for him, as did his younger sister. “[My mom] used to drive me all over New York City and New Jersey on the weekends to play in AAU tournaments,” he wrote for the Players’ Tribune. “My mom probably put like 500,000 miles on that old Toyota Camry. The crazy part is that she couldn’t have cared less about basketball.”
In fact, he shared that the first time he dunked, he raced outside the gym to tell his mother, only to have her ask him on the drive home, “Can I ask a dumb question? What exactly makes it a dunk, sweetheart?” he wrote.
Wright, who has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Concordia College, is set to receive a master’s degree in early childhood education from Manhattanville College in 2023, her profile with the YWCA Greenwich states.
She taught at Greenwich Country Day School, Mitchell’s alma mater, for 13 years and is now on the school’s board of trustees. She also works as the executive director of SPIDACARES, a foundation established by Mitchell to help families with education and athletics.
3. Nicole Wright Always Put an Emphasis on Donovan Mitchell’s Education Despite Criticisms From Others
With Wright’s interest in education, it’s perhaps no surprise that she really pushed her two children to focus on their schooling. Mitchell and his sister Jordan attended Greenwich Country Day School in Connecticut. His last two years of high school were at Brewster Academy boarding school, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
“I believe education is the key to getting from one level to the next,” Wright shared with the publication. “It’s heavy. People say that, but I truly understand that.” In fact, Mitchell described his mother as “skeptical about sports” in his piece for the Players’ Tribune. He said schooling was really important in their household, but he didn’t really get it, preferring gym class, lunchtime and recess with his friends.
In fact, both Wright and Mitchell have recalled an occasion in eighth grade when he didn’t complete his school assignment before a big AAU tournament, which had been their deal, and wasn’t allowed to go. No amount of begging or pleading or anger changed Wright’s mind, and Wright also had to stay firm when his coach and other players’ parents called her too, she shared with the Salt Lake Tribune.
Afterward, she cried in the bathroom and said she felt awful. She said it wasn’t the first time coaches questioned her decisions. “I was ruining his sporting life. I’m hindering him. I’m holding him back — these were the words I heard for years on end,” she confessed. But it worked. The lesson stuck and Mitchell began focusing on his schoolwork as well as basketball.
That’s why he made a deal with his mother when he decided to declare for the NBA draft after his sophomore college season that he’d come back to his degree. In fact, he continued taking online classes at the University of Louisville during the offseason to eventually be able to graduate. “I’m the type of person that if I put it off, I’ll forget about it,” he told the Tribune. “But I really am just focused on that and determined to get it. It’s a good thing to have, especially as a basketball player.”
Wright, who added notes to Mitchell’s essay for the Players’ Tribune, wrote that when he was announced at his first NBA game with the Utah Jazz, “All the fans were standing up and cheering, and I was just sitting in my seat with my head in my hands, sobbing.” She added, “I just couldn’t believe that we were really here. All those sleepless nights wondering, ‘Are we doing the right thing?’ We made it here.”
4. Philanthropy Is Very Important to Donovan Mitchell & He Set Up a Foundation to Give Back to Communities
Mitchell is a very charitable athlete who’s been focused on giving back from day one. In 2020, after he signed a contract extension with the Utah Jazz, he donated $12 million to his alma mater, the Greenwich County Day School. The money is set to help the school build a new gym while also offering scholarships to children from low-income families.
The Cavs star also launched his foundation, SPIDACARES, to focus on helping communities through education and athletics. “Through supporting youth and athletic programs, the foundation seeks to foster and promote the physical well-being and mental health, ethical character, confidence, and good sportsmanship of both children and adults,” his website states. “SPIDACARES awards grants and scholarships to students with financial need who exemplify the spirit of hard work, empathy, and leadership embodied in Donovan’s commitment to Determination Over Negativity.”
The foundation was launched by Mitchell and his family and his mother serves as the executive director. Wright candidly shared with the Players’ Tribune that she was “not very impressed by all the basketball stuff.” She admitted that she still didn’t understand a lot about the game.
However, she shared, “What makes me really happy is when I hear the stories about Donovan going out of his way to help people that he runs into in real life — whether it’s the kid at the Apple Store who needed to fix his phone, or the person at the grocery store who was counting change.”
She said when she hears those stories, even though Mitchell rarely talks about them, she said, “that’s when I know I did a good job as a mother… That just makes me so proud that I might go ahead and start crying right now, in fact.”
5. Donovan Mitchell Has a Younger Sister, Jordan Mitchell, Who Is a College Lacrosse Star & Very Close With Her Brother
Mitchell was really close with his sister Jordan when they were growing up, despite the five-year age gap between the two. When he played his first NBA game at Madison Square Garden, his hometown debut, his sister couldn’t attend because she had her first state championship in lacrosse. However, Mitchell wasn’t disappointed because she missed his hometown debut, he said, according to SB Nation. It was because he missed her first state championship game.
Mitchell shared back in 2021 that he was always doing whatever he could to “show love” to his younger sister. “She’s always by my side, especially when we were younger,” he told KSL. “She missed out on a lot of child things to come stay in a hot gym for six hours a day.” Jordan Mitchell is currently a junior at American University, where she is a star on the lacrosse team.
In fact, Mitchell opened up about a text from his sister that had a lasting impact on his life and career. He’d had a terrible game during his sophomore year in college and on December 31, 2016, he learned that he wouldn’t be starting the next game, against Indiana at the Pacers’ arena in front of all the NBA scouts. “It was super, super tough. I was in a really bad headspace,” he recalled in his Players’ Tribune piece.
Mitchell said he unexpectedly received a long text message from his sister, who was 13 at the time. He said they didn’t usually send each other long, serious messages. “But this message was just super heartfelt and honest, expressing how much she believed in me, and how she’d witnessed how hard I worked over the years, and how she knew everything was going to work out,” he shared. “She was bringing up all these little moments from the past, and it just did something to me.”
The Cavs star ended up having an amazing game off the bench and playing better than he ever had before. He said he’d never told his sister about the text’s impact but that it “probably changed my whole life.”