Photo courtesy Brian Bell

The story behind the kid who rebounded for Donovan Mitchell

Rob Bradford
November 18, 2018 - 10:05 am

Waking up Sunday morning, Brian and Sam Bell turned on the TV and there they were on ESPN's SportsCenter. It offered the latest punctuation for what was a night neither will soon forget.

Anyone monitoring all things Celtics or the NBA on social media Saturday night might recognize Sam. He was the 9-year-old Utah star Donovan Mitchell brought over to rebound for him prior to the Jazz's game against the Celtics at TD Garden. It was a video clip that legitimately went viral, thanks in large part to the NBA social media accounts getting a hold of the images.

So, how did the opportunity actually present itself?

It started with the Bell family's summer vacation to New Hampshire.

"We go up to Lake Winnipesaukee on vacation so we’re always in Wolfeboro. We see Brewster Academy and we had no idea it was like a basketball powerhouse," Sam's father, Brian, said. "He’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, Donovan Mitchell went there!’ So I had a Donovan Mitchell jersey made for him in September."

The glee Sam had in receiving a Brewster Academy jersey (which was made by the prep school's own store) was a testament to just how big a basketball fan was. Sure, the Celtics were his team, but the game was about much more than just the players he would root on in Boston.

"The NBA is doing it right," Brian explained. "Young fans are into it. When we were growing up your players were on your team. But these guys they watch all the teams. The players move around all the time. So he likes players."

It paid off, as did Sam's father's suggestion that the young fan wear his Brewster jersey underneath the usual Celtics gear just in case.

As it turned out, some of the Utah television announcers saw Sam wearing Mitchell's high school jersey and suggested they were going to arrange an introduction. Time passed and the Bells drifted off into the stands, with Brian -- an employee of radio station WROR -- saying hello to some folks he knew from the industry. Then Celtics radio announcer Cedric Maxwell approached the pair and informed them the Utah contingent was looking for them to arrange a meet-up with the Jazz star.

"They’re like, ‘Hey Donovan, here’s the kid.’ So he was like, ‘Hey, you want to rebound for me while I shoot around?’ It was unbelievable," Brian recounted. "The rest of the game he was just stunned."

Photo courtesy Brian Bell