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This Is So Stupid

Donovan Mitchell’s 71-Point Game Must Be Stricken From The Record Books If We Are To Preserve The Soul Of This Great Game

11:08 AM EST on January 3, 2023

Donovan Mitchell gestures suspiciously.
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Donovan Mitchell of the Cleveland Cavaliers was sensational in an overtime victory Monday over the hard-luck Chicago Bulls. With 4.7 seconds left in regulation and his Cavs trailing by two points, Mitchell found himself at the stripe for the second of two free throws. By this point in the game, Mitchell already had 56 points on 17-of-29 shooting, and a career-high-tying 11 assists, heroically leading a Cavaliers team playing without all-star point guard Darius Garland and ultra-talented second-year big man Evan Mobley. As Mitchell's awestruck head coach explained after the game, this was not one of those shameful one-man shows that warps an offense out of whack and bends a basketball game to satisfy the ego and vanity of one myopic alpha scorer. "Every single play that he made," explained J.B. Bickerstaff, "was a play that was necessary."

No shame in losing a game like this! A man can hold his head high, even if his team falls just short of victory, knowing that every one of his 56 points was vital to his team's spirited show of competitive pride. But it is what happened on this late free throw that unfortunately makes Donovan Mitchell a Fraud and Criminal who must be suspended for a minimum of 25 games. Perhaps even 30! Here is the play:

Wow! It's the old intentionally missed free throw gambit, executed to perfection! The ball clanged off the back of the rim, and though behemoths like Robin Lopez, Jarrett Allen, and Kevin Love jostled furiously for the rebound, it was the 6-foot-1 Mitchell—at that moment the shortest player on the court—who soared in from the right, reached up into a thrashing canopy of arms, and before tumbling to the floor redirected the ball off the glass and into the hoop for the game-tying bucket. Amazing! What vision! What tenacity! What breathtaking athletic grace!

What a bunch of shameless cheating, more like! Have a look at this screenshot, which shows Mitchell's free throw still arcing toward the basket, and which also shows Mitchell with both feet inside the lane, jostling for rebounding position! Illegally!

Is this cheating? Yes.

Presumably it is a referee's job to make sure that a lane violation does not occur in these circumstances. Because the whistle was not blown for this obvious and unconscionable violation of fair play, Mitchell was able to make the game-saving play for his Cavaliers, and then to score 13 points on just four shots in overtime, bringing his total to a shocking 71 points and leading the Cavs to a 145–134 victory. Murder most foul!

"I'm speechless," said Mitchell, not of having soiled the game of basketball for all time with this disgraceful skullduggery but of scoring 71 points, a number topped by only four players in NBA history. "For me, not only did I do that, but I did it in an effort when we came back and won and it's how we won." It is indeed how the Cavaliers won! By cheating! To step over the free-throw line before one's shot touches the rim, and thus to swing victory from the Bulls (virtuous, upstanding, shitty to the point of crisis) to the Cavaliers (spunky and good but forever tainted by scandal), is the most unsporting, ungentlemanly, unforgivable act imaginable!

Mitchell scored or assisted a whopping 99 of Cleveland's 145 points on the night, the second most in a game in NBA history. He is having the most efficient season of his career by a healthy margin, and while modestly scaling back the percentage of possessions he uses, from the lofty numbers he was putting up in Utah. Mitchell has been everything Cleveland fans ever could've hoped for, and his heroics Monday came as close to legend-making as an early January regular-season performance can get.

Nevertheless, for underhandedly swiping victory from the jaws of poor, starving defeat, unfortunately Mitchell must now be thrown in prison for 71 years.

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