Donovan Mitchell is a baller.
Since entering the league in 2017, the Utah Jazz star boasts career averages of 21.3 points, 4.0 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. He also recently won the 2018 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
To hear Mitchell tell it, he didn’t always look destined for NBA stardom. He says he grew up playing AAU ball against guys “10 times better” than himself, but his listening skills allowed him to continually develop while others stalled out.
A quote from Mitchell on the importance of listening went viral last year on Twitter, and we believe it’s worth sharing. In the quote, which seems to have originally been posted on the website of Bob Walsh, former head basketball coach for the University of Rhode Island and the University of Maine, Mitchell details how his listening skills allowed him to surpass more talented players during his youth:
I saw a lot of guys who I thought should have been stars, but they don’t listen…there were guys in the AAU system who I grew up playing with who were 10 times better than me; but they didn’t listen. Many all-star games that I played with in high school, guys who were really good, didn’t listen. That was the constant theme: didn’t listen, did things their own way and got cocky. So my thing was, I can’t do that; I can’t be another one of those guys…My biggest thing was older guys know; they’ve been here and they’ve done it. In order for me to continue my success, I have to listen. I have to be someone who listens. It may not always be what I want to hear, but it’s the right thing that I need to hear. I think that developed from my childhood; my Mom telling me 1,000 times that “you have to listen.”
As much as we focus on building athleticism and sharpening physical skills, the importance of listening cannot be overstated. A young athlete who is able to listen and then act upon what they’ve been told has endless potential. The beauty of being a great listener is that, like your effort, it’s not dependent on natural talent. Any player who is invested in improving themselves and humble enough to know they don’t have all the answers can develop into an excellent listener.
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