Donovan Mitchell resented Rudy Gobert after their coronavirus diagnoses. There was already tension between the Jazz stars over stature, shots and roles. Coronavirus only exacerbated the problem.
One report even called their relationship unsalvageable.
A year later, Mitchell and Gobert are thriving together and Utah is in first place.
Tony Jones of The Athletic:
Multiple teammates of Mitchell tell The Athletic he and Rudy Gobert are more than co-workers. They are friends and have forged a close relationship with each other off the floor.
“In a strange way, I think that article helped,” Mitchell said. “It brought out a level of determination in both of us that we never had. I never had a controversy like that. Here we were, the two pillars of the team, and we had to go to the playoffs in two months. It brought out a different level of tenacity in both of us.
“We have a competitive energy in common and that helped us,” Mitchell said. “Our mindset was like, Forget y’all. You guys don’t think we can do this.’ Anytime we hear what we can’t do, we want to go out and prove that wrong.”
Mitchell and Gobert both getting big contract extensions might have helped. Financial security puts people at ease.
But that’s not the whole story. Mitchell and Gobert began to improve their relationship in the bubble before signing those deals. And highly paid NBA stars can still clash with each other.
This took real commitment by Mitchell and Gobert to understand and appreciate each other better.
They have far more commonalities than differences. Both built themselves up while being overlooked. Their work ethic and determination are similarly strong.
Sure, their personalities clashed at times. Mitchell becoming more celebrated complicated the dynamic. But those are relatively minor problems if both people are committed to making it work together.
Relationships nearly never must be unsalvageable. This is a great story of two people coming together rather than apart, and hopefully it serves as an inspiration.