Stan Lee’s Profound Influence on Donovan Mitchell, Spencer Dinwiddie, the NBA and Me

Stan Lee’s Profound Influence on Donovan Mitchell, Spencer Dinwiddie, the NBA and Me


Stan Lee’s Profound Influence on Donovan Mitchell, Spencer Dinwiddie, the NBA and Me


Last week, we said goodbye to Stan Lee. For those of you who don’t know who he is (looking at you, Mike Francesa), he was the comic book writer who created Black Panther, Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Mighty Thor, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Daredevil, Ant-Man, and a ton of others. But, for a lot of us, myself included, he was much more than that.

Let’s just say, growing up as an only child with both parents working, I had to find ways to keep myself occupied. For me, that became reading anything I could get my hands on, playing sports, and jumping into the world of comics. I would ride my bike to the comic book store every other week with quarters to buy packs of cards and new comic books. I raced home after school to watch Spider-Man and X-men. These things became my escape.

The comic universe was a world inside itself, and taught me tons of life lessons about positive qualities like morality, empathy, and compassion. For example, X-Men was based on combating social issues like bigotry and equality. It is truly amazing that Lee, even at that time in 1963, was forward thinking and caring enough to understand how to incorporate these themes into his work. All of Lee’s superheroes pushed the theme of responsibility as explained perfectly by Uncle Ben in Spider-Man “with great power comes great responsibility.” Those are words to live by and words I will share with my daughters once they are old enough to understand.

I’m just one example of Lee’s ripple effect on the world, but many have come out since Lee passed to pay respect. One world comics, and Lee in particular, definitely influenced the NBA. What better place than the NBA where there are a myriad of storylines, and superheroes on the court like “King James” or “The Splash Brothers”? Nothing exemplified this more than in 2010 when the NBA and ESPN teamed up for their NBA Preview issue of ESPN Magazine.

The classic cover featured LeBron James as Captain America, Kobe Bryant as Iron Man, and Kevin Durant as Thor. Inside, for every team’s entry in the preview issue, various artists created unique Marvel-NBA mash-ups for every team. Being a Bulls fan, of course my favorite one was the cover featuring Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer

I reached out to two NBA players that I know have a special affinity for Lee. First, Spencer Dinwiddie (SD), who plays for the Brooklyn Nets, created custom kicks to honor Lee. I asked Dinwiddie about Lee’s influence on him:

VC: How big of an influence did Spider-Man and other Stan Lee created Marvel characters have on your life?

SD: Like I posted on IG, my two favorite superheroes growing up were Iron Man and Vegeta. Obviously Vegeta doesn’t necessarily apply here, but those are big foundational pieces from my childhood. Iron Man, I wanted to grow up and be like that, and build an Iron Man suit. I think I even said that in my 2014 draft profile. They asked me what do you want to do when you grow up, and I said build an Iron Man suit. Part tongue-in-cheek, but partly serious. If the technology is there and I have the funds to do it, that’s legitimately a goal. And you can only have a goal like that because obviously he brought the character to life. He showed us something that might be possible in the future. He sparked that imagination.

VC: Why did you love Iron Man?

SD: Just a super smart guy, so I identified with that. Even in my basketball career, I wasn’t the most athletic growing up, I wasn’t the biggest, strongest, fastest guy, but I felt like I could dominate a game based up on my mind and how I viewed the game. So, [I] drew parallels there. I also like Black Panther. Obviously it is very en vogue right now because of the movie. Just another guy in the same vein. Really, really smart guy. Royalty. My favorite color is also purple, so you know, that ties into it as well.

VC: Did you grow up reading the comics, watching the shows and the movies?

SD: Yes, all of the above.

VC: What inspired you to create the custom kicks?

SD: When I got to BK, 2.5 years ago, no one really wanted to sign me to a deal, Nike, Adidas, anyone else, so that is when I embarked on the journey that if it is possible to have your own shoe, and see where it takes you. Couple year downs the road, I’ve drawn my own shoe. I used to draw like that when I was younger. I was not an artist to Stan Lee’s caliber at all, nor did I have the versatility, but, for whatever reason, I can draw shoes. It’s one of the things that I am good at drawing. I drew it, we brought it to life, and when I decided to do this, and partner with Project Dream, go down this path, I wanted to do it my own way. There were different innovative things that I thought would be dope to do like the 82 different shoes and having the flexibility to do all those custom things and put out the messaging I wanted to put out. And, obviously with his passing and what some of his characters meant to me and my life, I felt like it was only right to pay homage to a legend.


Another player who had Lee’s world intersect with his is Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (DM). Mitchell, whose nickname is “Spida”, had this to say about Lee:

VC: How big of an influence did Spider-Man and other Stan Lee created Marvel characters have on your life?

DM: It made up a lot of movies I watched as a kid. It was pretty special for me to take that Spider-Man name and kind of run with it. It is an honor. He has done so much for the community and for us as kids growing up. [Lee’s] made an everlasting impact due to the comics, the movies, the ideas. He never stopped, and I think that is one thing that you can attest to his work ethic. I kind of put that into my work ethic. There’s always something, you always have to do more, he never stopped, and that was very impressive.

VC: Have you read the comics or watched the movies?

DM: Watched the movies.

VC: Were you always a Spider-Man fan, even before your teammate’s dad gave you that nickname?

DM: Yes, I was. I always loved Spider-Man. Didn’t realize how it would play out in my life. And, that [red] is my favorite color too.

VC: I loved the Instagram picture the Jazz posted to honor Stan Lee when he passed away. Are you personally going to do anything to honor him?

DM: I have something coming up! I just can’t say too much right now, but I have something coming up for sure.

So, as you can see, the parallels between the world Stan created and the NBA will always exist. From old to young, NBA players themselves have embraced this “universe” as well. From Victor Oladipo suiting up as the Black Panther in last year’s dunk contest, to Wendell Carter Jr. rocking a Black Panther themed outfit on Draft Night, players have mad love for that world. In fact, here is a list of current players, and their favorite Marvel superhero or supervillain:

  1.      Atlanta Hawks’ Jeremy Lin – Iron Man
  2.      Brooklyn Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie – Iron Man
  3.      Detroit Pistons’ Andre Drummond – Thor
  4.      Indiana Pacers’ Victor Oladipo – Black Panther
  5.      L.A. Clippers’ Danilo Gallinari – Spiderman
  6.      L.A. Lakers’ JaVale McGee – Venom
  7.      L.A. Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma – Wolverine
  8.      L.A. Lakers’ Lonzo Ball – Thor
  9.      New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis – Venom
  10.  OKC Thunder’s Paul George – Wolverine
  11.  Philadelphia 76ers’ JJ Redick – Antman
  12.  Phoenix Suns’ Dragan Bender – Deadpool
  13.  Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic – Spiderman
  14.  Sacramento Kings’ Marvin Bagley – Spiderman
  15. Washington Wizards’ Otto Porter Jr. – Black Panther

In closing, thank You, Stan Lee. Your characters taught me great lessons, shaped my childhood, and changed my life for the better. Hopefully I can carry on your legacy.

Lastly, here is an important video of Lee that I believe needs to be shared, especially in today’s climate:

Excelsior. 1922-2018.

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