Louisville football shows its true colors while telling Lamar Jackson that the Cardinals will be retiring his No. 8. (1:28)
It was the summer 2015.
Lamar Jackson, a newcomer to the University of Louisville's campus, was only a few weeks into his courses when Donovan Mitchell, a true freshman, bumped into him late at night.
Jackson, a quarterback was playing with a few of his teammates, while Mitchell, a guard for the basketball squad, was hanging out with the hoopers.
After a casual introduction, they became friends and began to compete for the KFC Yum! basketball program. A center practice area for an impromptu session of dunk.
Cameras were not available. There was no media. There is no pressure. Only teenagers having fun.
Donovan Mitchell (pictured) has been a supporter and encouragement to Lamar Jackson since their time at the University of Louisville. Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images
"I did very basic dunks. ... Jackson stated to ESPN that if we were discussing [NBA] 2K [videogame] dunk comparisons then mine would be generic and his would have some crazy s---like Vince Carter or something."
Mitchell said that it was quite impressive to just see Mitchell, and there were a few others who were also jumping and doing other things. "I was like, 'Y'all might beat us if you only focused on basketball and dunking', but I had to get out there and learn some tricks and put that to rest."
The former classmates from Louisville are often remembered fondly as some of the best in their respective positions in the NBA or NFL.
Mitchell, 25, is a two-time NBA All-Star in Mitchell's fifth season with the Utah Jazz. He's widely considered one of the best young players in the league.
Jackson's charismatic style has made him a popular figure in the NFL. He continues to set records as a Baltimore Ravens quarterback at the age of 24.
Jackson, who was named the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner and 2019 NFL MVP, will receive his No. Louisville will retire Jackson's No. 8 jersey during Saturday's Cardinals game against Syracuse (noon on ESPN3). Johnny Unitas, the Pro Football Hall of Famer, will be the second recipient of the honor.
"I can't even explain it. "I can't even explain it." I get asked a lot of people, "How do you feel about this?" Jackson will be there to witness the ceremony. "I am still alive, and I am getting my jersey number from a DI school. That's crazy."
"It's a constant support and love for one another."
Mitchell wore Jackson's purple No. 8 jersey to the Jazz's game against the Toronto Raptors on New Year's Day 2019. 8 jersey.
Jackson was a rookie and days away from becoming the youngest NFL quarterback to begin a playoff game. Mitchell sent Jackson a message, telling him how happy he was for Jackson. Mitchell also knew how far Jackson had come from being drafted in the first round. Some NFL scouts suggested that Jackson consider changing positions.
Mitchell might relate.
Mitchell was doubted early by critics who claimed he was too aggressive during his rookie season in NBA. His play ultimately led to the Jazz defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round.
Mitchell stated, "I kinda just find ways for him to be encouraged."
Since then, the messages of support have continued. Mitchell sent a text message of encouragement to Mitchell last season after the Ravens lost in divisional round to the Buffalo Bills. Jackson also did the same for the Jazz in June's Western Conference semis defeat by the Los Angeles Clippers.
"I had hit him up. "I had hit him up. I told him to keep going. Because I had seen it in him. Jackson stated that he was trying to win the NBA championship. Jackson said, "He's going to get it one day. With his passion for the game, I feel like he's there. He is passionate about the game and has doubts and all that stuff. People talk about him.
Mitchell stated, "It's constant love and support for each other."
A new era
Lamar Jackson, a Louisville student, walks out of the tunnel. Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Jackson was initially disappointed to see a No. Jackson was disappointed to see a No. 8 jersey in his Louisville locker.
He'd worn No. He wore No. 1 throughout his childhood, before changing to No. 7 at Boynton Beach High School (Florida).
"I'm hot. Jackson admitted that he was mad at seeing the number. "I had seen Alphonso Carter's No. He's older than me, so he was like a junior at that time. Now I have to wait for years or something to get my number back. But then, I called my mom."
Felicia Jones, Jackson's mother, listened carefully to Jackson before giving her feedback. She found that the number 8 is a Biblical number. 8 is a new beginning. Jackson was able to change his mood after hearing this.
"So, I feel like a 'new beginning'? That's what I feel. Jackson stated that Jackson feels like she is different than everyone else going to college, so it's like "new era". So that's how my Instagram name (@new_era8) was born. That was the new era. I am like a new era, everything. I will take over everything. This is how I think.
Now, Jackson's No. The NFL's top-selling jersey, 8 is No.
Mitchell is proud to own a Jackson jersey and he also loves the symbol of a Black athlete challenging norms.
Mitchell, who lives and plays in Utah, has spoken out about racially charged incidents. He was most vocal when racist and vulgar comments were made at Ja Morant, a Memphis Grizzlies guard, and Russell Westbrook (then of the Washington Wizards), inside Utah's Vivint Arena. The group banned these fans.
Mitchell also voiced opposition to a Utah charter school that allowed parents to opt out of Black History Month curriculum. After public outrage, the decision was reversed.
Jackson offers a free football camp in South Florida for children called "Funday With LJ." This provides snacks and a food truck for attendees.
Mitchell will not be able to attend Jackson's jersey ceremony at Louisville. However, the Jazz are hosting Miami so the honor is more than just an athletic accomplishment through Mitchell's lens.
"The greatest thing in each of our respective ways and our own ways is that we are just showing the community that you can be great. Mitchell stated that you can be a great person, advocate for your community, and accomplish great things.