Photo by Jon Lopez, courtesy Stance Socks
Passing the Torch—What Donovan Mitchell learned from training with Dwyane Wade
Donovan Mitchell grew up watching LeBron James. When the superstar forward made his infamous free agency announcement (“The Decision”) at a Boys and Girls Club in Greenwich, Connecticut, a young Mitchell was waiting outside. An angry Knicks fan threw a bottle that almost hit Mitchell in the head. Mitchell, meanwhile, was thrilled to see the new-look Heat in action.
He just didn’t know then that it was another player in a Miami uniform he should have been watching more closely: Dwyane Wade.
“I didn’t really know how I should model my game,” the 22-year-old Mitchell says now. “I didn’t understand the game well enough to know that he was a guy I should be looking at.”
That changed last season, Mitchell’s first in the NBA. Whenever he watched film, he found himself drawn to Wade’s game.
“I come into the league and he’s the guy I’m watching the most on film,” Mitchell said.
Wade, meanwhile, was Mitchell, too. So as the 12-time All-Star and three-time champion prepared for the final season of his storied career, he put together a guest list of young players to train with him. Among them was Portland’s CJ McCollum, Miami’s Justise Winslow and, of course, there was Mitchell.
“That was incredible,” said Mitchell, who will face off with Wade and the Heat on Sunday in Miami. “I learned a lot from him.”
The inaugural D. Wade Invitational played out over four days in late August at the Stance Socks headquarters in San Clemente, California. The group dined at a private beach house at night. During the days, Wade imparted some of the valuable lessons—in basketball as well as business—he had learned over the course of 15 years in the NBA.
“He wanted to start passing on his knowledge about how he trains, the things he works on, on and off the court,” said Clarke Miyasaki, Stance’s executive vice president of business development. “He wants to ensure the next generation of players has the same success.”
Flash wanted to pass the torch—and more than a few people have pointed to Mitchell as a worthy successor.
“I’ve thought that they were similar for a while since Donovan started to blow up,” Miyasaki said. “There were similarities to how they got to the rim, their size, athleticism. It was a fun week, sitting on the court and watching these guys.”
Wade averaged 16.2 points, 4.5 assists and 4 rebounds per game during his rookie season in 2003-04. Mitchell averaged 20.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists as he helped lead the Jazz to an appearance in the Western Conference Semifinals.
“I was definitely watching them every time they got matched up,” Miyasaki said. “It was pretty fun. Like, ‘Let’s go.’ And you saw Donovan talking to Dwyane a lot. You could see he was trying to glean some information from Wade. That’s a great person to model yourself after. I’d love to be able to hear what they were saying.”
Even afterward Mitchell wouldn’t share all the details.
“Just learning how to slow down, to make the proper passes, proper reads,” he said. “There were a lot of times I missed Rudy Gobert on a lob to take a floater just because I didn’t see the lob.
“D-Wade talked about slowing down, not using his athleticism all the time because that tires you out after awhile.”
But the young Jazz star knows he has a lot of work to do if he is to live up to the Wade comparison so many have already made.
“I’m nowhere to close to where I want to be in my career,” Mitchell said before his sophomore season tipped off. “There are a lot of obstacles to get there. I’ve gotten better. I’ve added a lot to my game. I watch a lot of Dwyane Wade. D-Wade was in the Finals his third year and he was getting to the free-throw line 10 times a game. I got to the free-throw line four times a game. If I want to get to that level, I’ve got to continue to work.”
That’s why Mitchell was so eager to accept Wade’s invitation.
“Being with him for those few days was great,” Mitchell said.