Almost immediately after his breakout rookie season, Donovan Mitchell and Adidas tore up his existing three-year sneaker deal and worked up a new, multi-million-dollar endorsement contract, complete with his very own coveted signature sneaker.
Mitchell tweeted about the new paperwork in July, and early concept work and prototyping kicked off behind the scenes for what Adidas had dubbed internally the "Spida 1." Then, on Thursday, Mitchell officially revealed his debut signature shoe, now named the Adidas D.O.N. Issue #1, slated to release around the time of the 2019 playoffs.
With the name a dual play on the first three letters of Mitchell's first name and his "Determination Over Negativity" mantra, the sneaker also takes inspiration from comic-book-series naming with its "Issue" model-number strategy. The blue-and-red debut colorway incorporates a white webbing support element on the side and his own basketball-slash-"spida" logo icon on the tongue -- all alluding to Mitchell's love for Spider-Man.
Mitchell went an unconventional route to debut the shoe, first speaking with two aspiring teenage sports writers from Greenwich Country Day School in Connecticut, Mitchell's alma mater. Those students were eighth-grader Blaise New, whose older brother played with Mitchell at GCDS, and ninth-grader Rory Ashmeade.
"My message with this shoe is that it's for kids ... who believe that they can do anything," Mitchell said. "I want my story to be told as such -- this was so unexpected for me. You know, it's only my second year in the NBA, to now have a shoe ... I want to help inspire kids so they feel like they can do anything."
As Adidas begins to slowly build out Mitchell's signature shoe business, he'll also have a focus on accessibility, with the D.O.N. Issue 1 expected to be priced under $100. The brand currently sells a $140 James Harden model, $140 Derrick Rose shoe and $115 Damian Lillard sneaker.
The Utah Jazz scoring guard becomes just the 18th current NBA player of 450 to have his own signature sneaker, as brands continually are showing more emphasis on star potential over market size. MVP candidates Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard are also expected to launch their own signature shoes with Nike and New Balance, respectively, in late 2019.
For Mitchell, the sudden surge through the marketing ranks came quickly. His strong rookie campaign helped the Jazz make up for the loss of Gordon Hayward in free agency, and Mitchell led Utah to the No. 5 seed in the West, followed by a first-round upset of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Coupled with his All-Star Weekend win in the Dunk Contest, Mitchell was on the map, and he soared near the top of Adidas' NBA endorser list alongside Harden and Lillard. Earlier this fall, Adidas decided against extending more than 10 endorsement deals, including those of Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Harrison Barnes, as the brand looks to refresh its roster of NBA players and focus more on Harden, Lillard and now Mitchell.
"It's an honor to be in the same category," Mitchell said. "I know Dame and James on a personal level, so it's pretty special to be up there with them. Two years ago, I never would have thought I'd have a relationship with those two, or even be put in the same category as far as having a signature shoe."
As he and the team of Adidas designers began to work on the sneaker, there was an early emphasis on a padded low-cut collar, ample lateral support for his powerful cuts, jabs and stepbacks, and a no-frills heel-to-toe traction pattern for relentless grip.
Adidas' big bet on Mitchell comes during a slow start for both Mitchell and the Jazz, who currently rank No. 11 in the Western Conference. With an entire career ahead of him and a series of sneaker issues in store, however, Mitchell is excited to launch his debut D.O.N. Issue 1 in the coming months.
"I still can't get over the fact that people wear my jersey, so I think it will take a little while to get used to this," Mitchell said. "It might take a little while for me to get used to wearing my own shoe, so ... it's going to take a while, but I'm blessed."