Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts during the second quarter against the Washington Wizards at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Donovan Mitchell Earned His 'Spida' Nickname Before He Became an NBA Star


At the top of, words scroll across like the New York Stock Exchange. For all you word investors out there, it might be time to sell "howdy." My normal greeting is up 10,000% and the numbers are telling me to get out. Something like, "Nice day out, isn't it?" or "Hey there, partner," are possible replacements. From there, I'll work in some form of the word gangplank, because, folks, the American word dating back to 1840-50 is up 2,871% and all the indicators are telling me to buy.

In researching for the hottest new word, there's a term on the rise: Spida. Yes, there is a legitimate entry for current Cleveland Cavaliers and former Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell's nickname.

It reads:

"A basketball species usually found above the rim; equipped with superhuman senses, shot-slinging abilities and unrivaled bounce."

The definition continues:


"Nickname of Donovan Mitchell, record-breaking shooting guard who played for the Utah Jazz and Cleveland Cavaliers. He was also a contender for NBA's 2018 Rookie of the Year."

Donovan Mitchell's Spida Nickname

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Mitchell snuck into the lottery as the 13th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft after playing for the Louisville Cardinals for two years. If you ever want to understand just how insane the NBA draft is, take a look at the first round from 2017. Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball ahead of perennial NBA All-Star Jayson Tatum? Wow.

Back to Spida, who unexpectedly exploded onto the scene in Salt Lake City and won the Western Conference Rookie of the Month from December to March. In the middle of that run, he participated in the 2018 NBA Slam Dunk Contest at All-Star Weekend and delved further into his nickname's origin.


"When I was younger, I was just a dunker. Like, it was all I loved to do, was just dunk. One of my teammate's dad called me Spida. It just stuck."

The nickname bestowed on him by a former teammate's father proved fitting. Mitchell won the contest and took home the dunking title.

The Utah Jazz rookie finished second in the 2018 NBA Rookie of the Year voting behind Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers to cap off a great first season. He jabbed at Simmons with a defining Adidas hoodie, making the point that a "rookie season" should in fact be your first year in the league. Every actor who plays Spiderman knows that.

In 2020, the Jazz basketball player ran into some intrasquad issues after teammate Rudy Gobert was the first NBA player to test positive for the coronavirus on March 11, 2020. Gobert was lighthearted about COVID-19, touching teammates and their belongings in the locker room. Mitchell tested positive the next day.


The conflicts quieted for now, and the Jazz entered the NBA's Orlando reboot in fourth place in the West. But the damage was done. The Western Conference playoffs ended with LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers lifting the Larry O'Brien trophy over the Miami Heat; the rest was history. Little did we know then that Mitchell's time in Utah wouldn't last much longer.

The fractured relationship between Gobert and Mitchell was the canary in the coal mine for Utah. The 2020-2021 NBA season saw the Jazz finish atop the Western Conference, but like the Utah teams that ran into Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls, two of the best teams in NBA History, that would be their crowning achievement that year.

: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Cleveland Cavaliers walks the court during the first half of their NBA game against the Toronto Raptors

Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

Following a rough 2021-22 season, Utah dealt Gobert and his long arms to Minnesota and sent Mitchell, the 26-year-old Mets fan, to the Cavs in exchange for Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton, Ochai Agbaji, as well as a 2025 first-round draft pick, a 2026 first-round draft pick, a 2027 first-round draft pick, a 2028 first-round draft pick and a 2029 first-round draft pick.

Teaming up with Darius Garland in Cleveland earned first-team honors at the All-Star game while also recreating his career-high averages for rebounds, steals, assists and points per games. At a certain point in the beginning of the 2022-23 season, it seemed like Mitchell had an MVP on lock.


All this to say, Donovan Mitchell may become an NBA super-hero, but for now, he's content being Cleveland's friendly neighborhood Spida, man.

MORE: The Utah Jazz Might Be Cursed: A Deep Dive into the Sour Notes of Salt Lake City