SALT LAKE CITY — In a subtle yet meaningful way, Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz paid tribute to two University of Utah football players who died in the past year.
On Saturday, the Jazz held an open practice that was available for the public to watch virtually via Zoom. Many were quick to notice that Mitchell, a two-time NBA All-Star, was not wearing his signature number of 45, but rather #22.
The shooting guard told reporters in a post-practice press conference that it was to honor Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe.
He added that he's not changing his actual jersey number, but he took the opportunity to pay tribute to the pair of student-athletes — and longtime friends — who died in separate tragedies less than 10 months apart.
"I just wanted, you know, to pay my respects in my own way," he said.
Mitchell said he also wore it a couple of times during the team's training camp in Las Vegas this past week (Saturday's practice was at the team's usual training facility, the Zions Bank Basketball Campus, in Salt Lake City).
Lowe, a cornerback for the Utes, was shot and killed early Sunday morning outside a house party in Salt Lake City.
On Christmas night of 2020, Utah running back Jordan died from an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound while at home for winter break.
Jordan and Lowe were friends and teammates before joining the Utes' squad; they both attended and played football at West Mesquite High School in Texas.
Lowe even changed his number to 22 this season in honor of his late friend, and he was the first recipient of the Ty Jordan Memorial Scholarship.
About three years ago, Mitchell paid tribute to another Utah student-athlete who also died tragically. He wrote Lauren McCluskey's name on his shoes that he played in just a few nights after the track and field athlete was murdered.