THE WILLIAM JAMES FAMILY TREE
MUHAMMAD ALI and me sitting on a mountain top somewhere in the Pocono Mountains in 1973
DONOVAN MITCHELL, SR (HOUSTON ASTROS MINOR LEAGUES) somewhere in the minor leagues in the1990s
DONOVAN MITCHELL, JR (NBA UTAH JAZZ) somewhere in the NBA in 2020
When my wife Hattie came up with the tag “INSIDE SPORTS” in 1972 for my new sports talk show, we had no idea that the tag would travel globally. Every media vehicle in the world now uses INSIDE in some shape or form to introduce news stories for their network, unheard of before “INSIDE SPORTS” and Hattie Bell in Washington, DC.
I remember we were having dinner one evening when I told her I needed a title for my new show. I don’t think she looked up from her plate and said, “INSIDE SPORTS.” From the very beginning I knew it sounded like a great fit, but I had to ask her how did she come up with the tag. Her explanation was logical and made sense to me. She said, “You come up with behind the scenes news before anyone else in news media.” I had gotten my start in radio sports talk with my mentor the legendary radio and television talk show host Petey Greene on WOL Radio in the late 70s. He had the No. 1 radio talk show ‘Petey Greene’s Washington’ heard every Sunday evening on WOL Radio. He gave me 5 minutes every Sunday to talk sports. The rest is sports talk show history.
For the first time in American history a virus has shutdown pro sports in America. The NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, WNBA, pro tennis, golf, soccer all have cacelled, delayed or postponed their seasons. Sports on college campuses have cancelled or postponed games in every sport.
Once again, 48 years later I am a part of the INSIDE story. NBA Utah Jazz All-Stars, center Rudy Gobert and guard Donovan Mitchell tested positive for the conronavirus. Gobert tested positive minutes before the Jazz were to face the Houston Rockets in Houston. The game was postponed just before tip-off and the confusion could be seen on the faces of the players standing on the court.
The postponements has turned into an unwanted family affair for me. The 2018 Rookie of the Year and Slam Dunk Champion Donovan Mitchell, Jr. is my cousin. His father Donovan Mitchell, Sr. is the Player Relations Director for the New York Mets Major League Baseball team. He has been a member of the Mets for two-decades. He played in the minor leagues for 7 years before moving to the front office of the Mets. Donovan Sr. was just honored by the team for his two-decades of service with the organization. The Mets cancelled spring training and will delay the start of the regular season for at least two-weeks.
Donovan, Jr. tested positive for the virus shortly after his teammate and friend Rudy Gobert was tested. Out of 58 others tested in the Utah Jazz family only Gobert and Mitchell tested positive. The two have been a one-two punch for the Jazz for the past two seasons. Donovan averaged 24 points a game during his rookie year, adding 4 assist and 4 rebounds to make him a rising star in the NBA. He won the NBA Slam Dunk contest his rookie year, but decided not to defend his championship at this year’s All-Star Game, but he was on pace to match last year’s stats, averaging 22 points a game, adding 4 assist and 4 rebounds before the virus interuppted the 2020 season.
Donovan, Jr. hails from Elmsford, New York, during his younger years he could be found hanging out in Major League baseball lockerrooms, but a injury playing baseball as a teenager would change his career path that would take him to the NBA. He played AAU Basketball for the city and the Riverside Hawks both programs out of New York City. In 2010 he was present at the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich Village when his idol LeBron James announced to the world he was signing with the Miami Heat.
His next stop after graduating from high school in New Hampshire would lead him to the University of Louisville, instead of one and done he would spend two-years in college before opting out for the 2018 NBA draft. He was selected as the first pick in the 13th round by the Utah Jazz.
To me he was just another rising star among the dozens that enter the NBA every year via the draft or as a free agent, but my Aunt Elaine Stone would change all of that.
The Bell/Mitchell Family Tree: My mother was born in Sumpter, SC and came to Washington, DC at an early age after the sudden deaths of her parents who were educators. My great-uncle Attorney William James was the first black lawyer to pass the bar in Sumpter. Donovan Sr. is the son of Tina Mitchell whose parents were Frankie and Louis, my mother’s first cousins. Donovan would spend his early years being raised by his grand parents Frankie and Louis. When he was around the age of 4 or 5 his grandfather Louis had a health problem and Donovan, Sr and his grandmother Frankie went to live with Aunt Elaine. My Aunt Elaine is a member of the James Family Tree and my Uncle Billy’s favorite niece. I was Uncle Billy’s least favorite nephew. I heard him telling my mother one day, “Mattie you have got to stop spoiling that kid.” I thank God she never did!
I am holding the plaque honoring my uncle William B. James induction into the South Carolina Black Hall o Fame. It reads 2000 Honoree William B. James–Attorney and Civil Rights Activist. Presented by The United Black Fund of The Midlands, Inc. June 30, 2000 Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center, Columbia, South Carolina. Other than my mother my uncle Billy was the only one I wanted to please in the James Family Tree. I would think he is looking down and saying, “Job well done my son.” My wife’s father Dr. Charles H. Thomas a Civil Rights icon in Orangeburg, SC was inducted into the same hall of fame in 2007. The connection proves “An apple does not fall too far from the tree” especially, when one takes a stand to help others.
When Uncle Billy came to visit at my Cousin/Aunt Evelyn’s or Aunt Mary’s homes, my mother would say, “Your Uncle Billy is looking for you.” I would disappear without a trace until it was time to eat. He would sit across the dinner table and say, “Where have you been boy, are you staying out of trouble?” My response, ‘Yes sir, Uncle Billy.’ He was inducted into the Black South Carolina Hall of Fame in 2000 as a Civil Rights Activist and Attorney. I was to attend his induction ceromonies in Columbia, South Carolina, but for some reason I missed that great honor.
My work as a outspoken Youth Advocate and sports talk show radio pioneer can be found in my DNA Family Tree with Attorney William James.
I found my cousins Donovan Sr. and Donovan Jr. by accident while attending a dinner at my Cousin Charlita’s house during the Christmas holidays in 20017. Unbeknownst to me my Aunt Elaine had been living less than an hour away in Columbia, Maryland for close to a decade. We exchanged numbers and before I knew it she was celebrating her 100th birthday in June 2019. I marked my calendar for this blessing. Aunt Elaine was the first member of my family that I knew lived long enough to celebrate a 100th birthday. As faith would have it my car went south on me (no brakes) and we missed her 100th birthday celebration. How many times does one get to celebrate the 100th birthday of a family member–they only turn 100 once. I kept promising Aunt Elaine that Hattie and I would drive to Columbia one day and carry her to lunch.
Meeting my Aunt Elaine for the first time with Hattie T during the Thanksgiving holidays at my cousin Charlita’s home in NE DC in 2017 was a blessing in disguise.
In the meantime, I was trying to put the finishing touches on my book and Ali documentary. As it is often said. “TIME waits for no one!” I looked up and it was November 2019 and I still had not gotten to Columbia, but Aunt Elaine and I had been talking on the phone. I decided to mail her a copy of my new book “Harold Bell’s Walk Through American Sports History With Champs & Chumps!” Several days later I received a call from Aunt Elaine saying how much she enjoyed the book, and I was not the only Super-Star in the family! I laughed and said, ‘Aunt Elaine you are definitey a Super-Star,’ Her response, ‘No not me, you have a cousin that plays in the NBA, Donovan Mitchell.’ I really didn’t have a clue to whom Donovan Mitchell was, I seldom watch the NBA All-Star Game anymore and therefore I missed the All-Rookie game and slam dunk contest. All these showcases belonged to Donovan his rookie year. I did a little research and discovered this young brother was truly a rising star in the NBA.
My Aunt Elaine had another bomb to drop on me. She revealed that Donovan Mitchell, Sr. was the Player Relations Director for the MLB New York Mets’ team. More research, I discovered he had been a player in the Minor League system for almost a decade, he was hired in the Mets front office after his career move to the major leagues was stalled. I made a call to the Mets administrated office and asked for Donovan Mitchell and IDed myself as his long lost cousin via his Aunt Elaine.
In November my Muhammad Ali documentary was ready to make its debut on the Big Screen 45 years after the fact. The vehicle would be the Miracle Theatre on Capitol Hill, Sunday November 24, 2019. Hattie and I decided to invite Aunt Elaine and celebrate her 100th belated birthday. I called Donovan, Sr. and invited him to be a part of the celebration live or by memorex, he chose memorex.
The documentary debute of “I Remember Ali” celebrating the 45th anniversary of the Rumble in the Jungle was a smashing success. Aunt Elaine stole the show when I introduced her to the audience and gospel vocalist Robin Sugar Williams led us into singing “Happy Birthday” to her. MC Sylvia Traymore (comedian), Black Men in Americ.com (CEO and Publisher) Gary Johnson and Marc Clarke (W-H-U-R Radio) presented her with a bouquet of flowers. She enjoyed every moment and so did we. The video tribute from Donovan Sr. arrived late and I could add to the program.
VIDEO TRIBUTE FROM DONOVAN SR. IN HIS OWN WORDS!
“Hey Aunt Elaine,
Its Donovan, I just wanted to wish you a happy belated birthday—I know I am late please don’t hold that against me, but I love you and I miss you. I am wishing you the best. Wish I could have been there with you for your birthday, but I just been running around doing a lot of things. I know it has been awhile since I seen you and the family, but a lot of things have changed. I got my two-kids. I am still working with the NY Mets. I have been in professional baseball for 27 years. But all the love and support you guys gave me when I was growing up I am still chasing these dreams! I want to wish you the best, thank you for everything—and I hope you are well–take care of yourself.”
On February 28, 2020 I would meet my young cousin Donovan Mitchell, Jr. for the first time. The Utah Jazz would be visiting the Washington Wizards at the Capital One arena in downtown, DC. I almost blew the opportunity to meet the rising NBA star. I had mis-read the Wizard’s schedule. The game was played on a Sunday evening. Things got worse I could not find Donovan on the floor or on the bench during the first half of the game. I was beginning to think he didn’t make the trip or had taken ill. During half-time I checked with one of the security people for the Wizards and discovered Donovan was being held out this game and was relaxing in the lockerroom. The Jazz coaching staff was right, they didn’t need him to beat the Wizards.
My editor Larry Law and I waited outside the lockerroom waiting for the all clear signal to enter. The first player in the door way to the lockerroom was Donovan. He was standing and talking with a friend/fan with a big smile on his face. I waited my turn to introduce my self. Finally, I was able to say hello and tell him I was his long lost cousin via the James Family Tree. Like most of today’s young people he was not aware of his family history.
Aunt Elaine smelling the flowers on her belated 100th birthday on November 24, 2019 at the Miracle Theatre in Washington, DC and me and Donovan in the Jazz lockerroom at Capitol One Arena.
His broad smile never left his face during the conversation. I told him I had talked with his father in New York several days ago giving him an update. I asked him if he was aware that he had a great-aunt living here in the area who had recently turned 100 years-old? His eyes got bigger with the response, “I had no idea!” You could tell he was a people person. There are times when young pro athletes experience his kind of early success early in their careers, they are withdrawn and sometimes hard to find. Donovan was a class act and as I like to say, ‘He was an officer and gentleman.’ He took the time-out to take a couple of photos and we exchanged numbers. You could tell he was very polished when it came to the media. All the credit I am sure goes to Donovan Sr. who exposed him to star athletes and media personalities in MLB lockerrooms during his minor league playing days and front office duties with the New York Mets.
This was one time in my media career I could have done without being INSIDE SPORTS. Since Donovan and his teammate Rudy Gobert were tested positive for the virus a total of 58 front office personel and players of the Utah Jazz have been tested and only the two players have tested positive. Donovan Sr. was tested on Thursday. Father and son were together when the Jazz played in New York against the Knickerbockers recently.
Let us keep the entire family in prayer along with the entire NBA family and friends. Donovan Jr. was recently on the televison news saying, “Whats up everybody Donovan Mitchell here just want to thank you guys so much for your continued support man it means a lot to me I feel fine things are going well just taking the proper precautions I have been told by the health authorities I have to stay in isolation, so lonely in here playing video games all day. I cannot wait to get back out there on the floor and play in front of some of the best fans in the world, really missed playing in front of you guys—I see you guys soon.” Last report Donovan Sr. was tested and given the “All Clear” and Donovan, Jr. has been seen on the television news saying, “I am feeling great!” Lets keep praying!
Up Date: Local boy Kevin Durant and three Brooklyn Nets have tested positive for virus joining Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.