After putting up a historic 37-point performance in an overtime win against the Washington Wizards, Donovan Mitchell pulled up to his postgame press conference rocking an icy, gold-encrusted chain with a gigantic “C” shaped pendant around his neck. When asked about being awarded the prestigious Junkyard Dog Chain—an honor that represents the gritty and scrappy culture that the Cavaliers have been building since head coach J.B. Bickerstaff first introduced the tradition last February—Mitchell made sure to let the media just how grateful he was to not only be given the piece of hardware, but to be a part of his new squad.
“It meant a lot,” Mitchell said. “The guys in the locker room, when I saw RoLo get it last time, I was like, ‘Oh, this is pretty dope.’ For me, just to feel a part of the group. They’ve accepted me since day one. Just to go out there and continuously just find my way, whether it’s offensively, defensively. Then to get this, it’s awesome.”
Even before Mitchell arrived in the Land, it was becoming clear that the team was truly starting to buy into the underdog-mentality. Darius Garland, who averaged a career-high 21.7 points last season, once described the team as a “pest” on the hardwood, and that’s become apparent not only in their on-court play and defensive dominance, but in their demeanor. Lamar Stevens was the one who started the barking last year, and since then, the whole team has caught on to it.
“Lamar [Stevens] started it, but I kinda adopted it,” Jarrett Allen told SLAM. “I think it’s perfect for what the team is trying to achieve…. We’re a young team, but we have the talent to back up the scrap.”
The Junkyard Dog Chain perfectly encapsulates all of the energy and excitement building around the Cavs’ young squad—designed by The Foundry at Jared, the hardware is made up of 14k Yellow Gold and features the 216 Cleveland area code, JYD [Junkyard Dog] acronym and Cavalier logos from throughout franchise history on the piece. Past recipients to rock the Junkyard Dog Chain, which is given to a player after every team win, includes Stevens, Garland, Kevin Love, Dylan Windler, Isaac Okoro and 2021-22 Rookie of the Year runner-up Evan Mobley.
Last Saturday, Robin Lopez became the first recipient of this season’s Junkyard Dog Chain after putting up 12 points in his Cavs debut.
As the latest Cavalier to win the award, Mitchell is continuing to impress and is setting franchise records, including being the first in Cavs’ history to put up back-to-back 30-plus point games to start the season. With a new superstar at the helm and a stacked roster of hungry talent, this is only the beginning of the team’s continued ascension.
But then again, Darius Garland did warn us back in February that the Cavaliers are ready to earn their respect.
“I think we’re starting to put the League on notice that we’re not just any slouch anymore. Like, you just can’t come into Cleveland and roll over us. I think we definitely deserve our respect.”
Photos via Cleveland Cavaliers.