Over the course of NBA history, a myriad of legendary NBA players have given fan historic performances that we still remember today. Whether it be James Harden’s month of absolute dominance in the 2018-2019 performance where he averaged 36 points across 72 games or Joel Embiid’s string of NBA snubs despite historic seasons all were all-time performances that rank amongst the greatest that fans have ever seen. There have been many phenomenal performances since these and will be many more as the league progresses, but one NBA star made his mark on league history with almost indisputably the best performance the star studded league has seen this season. Donovan Mitchell went on to drop 71 points in a game recently with the best performance the NBA since an all-time great put up arguably the best performance since said star, and proved he is not to be overlooked amidst the endless sea of NBA talent of today.
Mitchell kicked off his career with the Utah Jazz in 2017 and looked to have a key role in their future, but their front office proved otherwise last year when they traded him to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Jazz received a hefty package in return including three players such as Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton and Ochai Ogbaji as well as draft picks and potential swaps. That still wasn’t enough in return for Mitchell though, who has proven to be a leader in Cleveland and has led the Cavaliers to a 25-15 recording averaging 29 points across 35 games compared to the Jazz who are struggling to stay in the Western Conference play-in tournament at the moment. It wasn’t against Utah he had his moment to shine though, but instead against the Chicago Bulls on January 2nd he when he put up 71 points on 65% shooting alongside 8 rebounds and 11 assists to ensure that The Bulls stood no chance in a 145-134 Cavaliers win that further asserted their presence in the NBA this season.
Halfway through the season and already averaging 29 points, Mitchell is in position to have a season that is all but certain to leave an impact upon his already successful career. But this performance extends well beyond just Mitchell’s legacy as it’s the best singular performance in NBA history since Kobe Bryant’s 81 point performance in 2006 which without a dealt helped shape his reputation as the “Black Mamba.” But in spite of any celebrating he may or may not have done, the NBA decided to hit Mitchell with a “random” drug test that was suggested to be completely coincidental and according with drug policies. But Mitchell played the Bulls on on a Monday January 2nd, and his drug test came the following morning on Tuesday; biased or not? Questions like when his last “random” drug test was and what context surrounded it, and even then is seems too convenient to be coincidental. Whatever the case may be, Mitchell has been amongst the best names in the NBA since his rookie season and if this is just a taste of his fullest potential then the NBA must get used to it.
While it certainly could just be a rand drug test, this situation, in my personal opinion, warrants further investigation as it could potentially be in direct conflict with the NBA and NBA Players Association which is put in place to protect the rights of players first and foremost. Allowing NBA players’ rights to be infringed upon while they give us performances that have made the league so important to fans since it’s earliest inception and serves as its backbone, and not properly allowing them to do so without fear of accusal and the potential of punishment is egregious given the roughly $10 billion dollars the league pulled in last year. This isn’t the first we’ve heard of a seemingly not-so-random drug test labeled as random after a player has a great night or systemic or performance, several NBA players have even been “randomly” drug tested simply after posting pictures of their gym progress on social media which is seemingly something the league and teams would be happy to see; but it will not be the last either unless players can continue to play basketball to the best of their ability without nonsensical interference.