Where does Spida come from?
Born September 7, 1996 in Elmsford, New York, Donovan Mitchell earned his nickname, Spida, early on in his basketball career.
In an interview ahead of the 2018 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, Mitchell explained: "When I was younger, I was just a dunker. Like, it was all I loved to do, was just dunk. One of my teammate's dad called me Spida. It just stuck."
Spida is a variant pronunciation of spider. Reducing an end-of-the-word -er to an unstressed -a has long been a feature of some English dialects. The same process gives us brotha, playa, or gangsta.
Spida had been seen a bit before Donovan started rim-crawling though. A trip down memory lane shows a Jamaican spoken-word folktale recorded in 1980 that tells of Brotha Spida, for instance, and then there's hip-hop artist Nelly's track called "Spida Man" in 2004. For slang or humorous effect, internet users in the late 2000s wrote of surfing the web like a spida or being startled by an actual spida in their room.
Mitchell's Spida, for its part, likens Mitchell's in-the-paint prowess to the agile arachnid. Mitchell has a formidable wingspan, nearly seven feet, and vertical, over 40 inches—all on a powerful but compact just-over-six-foot frame. And, those long arms and bounce trapped his competitor's like flies, as Spida left the court as the 2018 slam-dunk champ. Those arms also put up some record-breaking stats in his rookie season as a shooting guard for the Utah Jazz, drafted as the 13th pick following two years of college ball for the Louisville Cardinals:
- First NBA rookie to score 40 points in a game since Blake Griffin in 2011
- Surpassed Karl Malone for most 20+ points games during a rookie season
- Twice set the Utah Jazz rookie scoring record
- Four-time Western Conference Rookie of the Month
Described as a "mix of Damian Lillard, Dwayne Wade, and Allen Iverson," Spida is an emerging superstar of the game.
— Spencer Checketts (@1280Spence) December 28, 2017
Or better yet, superhero: the Amazing Spida-Man, as Mitchell's fans so often compare him to Marvel Comics's Spider-Man. It's an apt comparison. Donovan Mitchell and Peter Parker share many Spidey senses. Both are daring and determined. Both are stealthy and smart. And, Mitchell swings from post to post as Peter Parker swings from skyscraper to skyscraper—except Spida doesn't need to sling any web to do it.
Like actual spiders, Mitchell is also patient, honing his skills not just in drills but also by watching hours and hours of films, studying his opponents' every move to learn how to best capture them in his defensive web or ambush them with a three-pointer.
But, for all his venom on the court, Spida has a reputation as a charming and witty team-player. Mitchell was nominated as the 2017–18 NBA Rookie of the Year, with race-watchers seeing the only challenge for the title coming from Ben Simmons—who technically sat out his first season for the Philadelphia 76ers due to an injury in 2016–17.
In a bit of good-nature trash-talk over the proper definition of a rookie, Spida memorably dunked on Simmons with an alley-oop from us at Dictionary.com.
Donovan Mitchell’s hoodie though lmao 👀 pic.twitter.com/VFbeugz77i
— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) April 10, 2018
Who uses Spida?
From Jazz fans to sports journalists, Spida is used as a common name for that rare and unique specimen of basketball beast ... formally classified as Donovan Mitchell.
On social media, people take advantage of the spider 🕷and spider web 🕸 emoji when celebrating his feats.
— Tyler D Thorpe (@TylerDThorpe) May 18, 2018
Spida rattles in his first bucket 🕸 pic.twitter.com/wwr4PzxUeR
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) March 11, 2018
Spida, as noted, is often playfully embellished to Spida-Man.
SPIDA-MAN SPIDA-MAN DOES EVERYTHING A SPIDA CAN.
— SLC Dunk (@slcdunk) April 24, 2018
— Bergy (@Ice_Bergy) January 5, 2018
Mitchell himself has run with his nickname, his Twitter handle being @spidamitchell. So has Adidas, who's designed custom shoes and other sportswear inspired by spider and Spider-Man motifs.
My adjusted top 5 after Steph couldn’t come thru again: / 1 Lebron / 2 Donovan Mitchell / 3 Spida Mitchell / 4 Donnie Mitch / 5 Donovan “The Don” Mitchell / I’m pretty high on Donnie I’ll admit
@CoznesterSmif, May, 2018
The No. 13 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Donovan Mitchell led all rookies in scoring (20.5 ppg) and finished with 20+ points 47 times. Mitchell was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month 4 times. / Check out Spida's Rookie Season Highlights 👉
@utahjazz, May, 2018
Everything he does is amazing. It’s amazing that he learns so quickly. It’s amazing that he has excellent court vision as a shooting guard. It’s amazing that he can guard 3 positions. It’s amazing that there are times he looks flat out Dwyane Wade-esque...He truly is the Amazing Spida-man.
Mychal Lowman, SLC Dunk, May, 2017