Hip-Hop Junkie: Utah Jazz Star Donovan Mitchell Remembers Beating Cam’ron in Basketball
The NBA’s next big superstar returned to his home state of New York to partake in the NBA Draft festivities being held in the Brooklyn this week. After being selected by the Denver Nuggets with the 13th pick in last year’s NBA Draft—and later traded to the Utah Jazz—Donovan Mitchell proved to many NBA critics why he should’ve been the No. 1 pick in 2017. Now, considered a lead candidate for the 2017-18 NBA Rookie of the Year Award, Mitchell looks to share his young NBA experience with the new batch of rookies while promoting the latest set of draft hats by New Era.
Since joining the league, Donovan has thrilled fans with his superb athletic skills and ability to finish inside the paint. Recognized as the one of the league's bright new talents, the Jazz guard has received plenty of praise from his NBA peers and b-ball vets. A polished offensive player with a maturity like no other, this 21-year-old has made the Rookie of the Year race a memorable one.
Along with his role at this year's draft, the Jazz's No. 45 has also participated in several events leading into the Draft Night, including Champs Sports' recent meet-and-greet event to help celebrate the New Era Cap NBA Draft Series collection (available now at Champs location).
XXL caught up with Donovan Mitchell at Champs Sports’ Times Square Flagship Store to discuss the newest set of NBA Draft-themed hats, his friendship with rappers Dave East and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, and the top five songs on his hip-hop playlist.
XXL: What do you remember most about the 2017 NBA Draft?
Donovan Mitchell: I remember being stressed-out and kind of panicking trying to figure out where I was about to go, but it was fun as a whole and an experience I will never forget.
What are your thoughts on the 2018 NBA Draft caps?
I love them. It gives you a different feel with the patches and what not. I got my own little personalized one with the spider on the back so I'm excited to rock this one. But it's cool how it gives you different perspectives.
What advice do you have for this year's rookies?
To continue to work. The easy part is over with. Now you got the hard part of being drafted and now you gotta continue to work. Guys are going to be coming for you.
What are five hip-hop songs you need on your playlist to get you ready for games?
So I got "Annoying" by Dave East. I also got "Paranoia" by Dave East. "Wins and Loses" by Meek Mill. "No Cap" by Future and "Mo Bamba" by Sheck Wes.
Who are some of your favorite current rappers and why?
Dave East—he be having the bars. A Boogie is another artist I really like as well. He can do it all. Drake, of course. He always got them hits. I gotta throw in there Future. He never disappoints. That's who I mostly listen to.
You and Dave East seem to be cool? How did you both connect?
I brought his name up one day in an interview and I guess he watched me play for a while but he didn't know I was a fan of his music. Him and A Boogie are probably the only two artists I listen to on a daily basis. I gotta check out that new A Boogie project when I get some time, but yeah, those are two artists I always listen to.
Growing up, who were some of your favorite rappers?
Fab[olous], for sure! He was just different. A true lyricist with some dope punchlines. Eminem is the same way. Those two guys play on words and are true lyricists. Em sometimes gets a little too extreme but you know Fab is one of those guys. Being from New York, you hear Fab a lot.
Being a New York native, who do you think is the King of New York when it comes to rap?
It's gotta be Hov or Nas—gotta be! They just OGs in the game right now. They're the guys who have been on top for many years and they doing things outside of rap as well. Businessmen. That's one of the things I think you gotta have. You can't just rap—you gotta be a businessman. You gotta be marketable. You gotta know what you're doing and be intellectual and smart.
Best rappers you've seen play ball?
Damian Lillard is probably the best. He can do both so well. I've seen Chris Brown play ball as well and he was nice. I haven't seen East play, but I heard he's pretty nice. J. Cole.
What about Cam'ron?
I actually remember I beat Cam'ron's team in an all-star game, so I hope he sees this. I remember that game. I was with Shaq and we beat his team.
What do you think about Damian Lillard's rapping abilities?
Dame and I are close and I got to listen to a lot of his songs. His songs are very tough in my opinion. You can kind of relate to it because it brings the basketball mindset into it. He's also talking about his life so it's pretty dope to see him do so well in another aspect of his life outside of basketball.
If you could select a theme song to walk out every game, what would that be?
Probably "To the Sky" by Fab. I don't know why, I just love that song.
Do you have expectations for your Utah Jazz next season?
We gotta get further than we did last year. Obviously, the goal is the championship. You know we gotta be better than we were last year in order for it to be a success. Set a base. Set a ground of what we want to do. I'm excited.
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