Cavaliers Hall of Fame broadcaster Joe Tait always says the Cavs' 154-153 quadruple-overtime victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 29, 1980, was the greatest game he ever called, and it was Mike Mitchell who put an end to it.
Cleveland's Mike Mitchell is hugged by coach Stan Albeck after he hit the game-winning free throws as the Cavaliers defeated the L.A. Lakers, 154-153, in four overtimes on Jan. 29, 1980.
Mitchell, 55, the former Cav who passed away Thursday morning after a two-year battle with cancer, made two free throws with two seconds left to seal the win. One memorable photo shows coach Stan Albeck hugging Mitchell after the victory.
"He was really a good guy," said Tait, who remembered that Mitchell sewed a lot of his own clothes. "Just good people."
Mitchell, an Atlanta native who played at Auburn, was a first-round draft choice of the Cavs in 1978, the 15th pick overall. Known for his high-arching jump shot, the 6-7, 215-pound forward averaged 19.3 points in 31/2 seasons with the Cavs and was an All-Star in 1981, when he averaged a career-high 24.5 points per game.
"The entire Cavaliers organization is very saddened to hear the news of former Cavalier and NBA All-Star Mike Mitchell's passing," said Campy Russell, a former teammate of Mitchell's who is now the Cavs' director of alumni relations. "Mike was loved by many, both on the court and off, and he will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mike's entire family during this very difficult and sad time."
Mitchell ranked 12th on the list of top 40 Cavs players compiled by The Plain Dealer sports staff last year, and he was contacted about his role in that victory over the Lakers, which was named the top game in the history of the franchise by the sports staff.
Asked what he remembered about that game, Mitchell said last year: "To be honest with you, not a whole lot. It was a fantastic game, but I don't remember specifics. It was one of those games everybody remembered, and [talk about] it went around for a few years as one of the top games being played.
"Then my career went on, and there were other games."
Mitchell was traded to the Spurs on Dec. 23, 1981, and spent 61/2 seasons in San Antonio, where he averaged 20.1 points and teamed with All-Star guard George Gervin and later with All-Star center Artis Gilmore to help the franchise win back-to-back Midwest Division titles.
After his NBA career was over, Mitchell played 12 seasons in Italy before returning to live in San Antonio. He was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer in November 2009. Mitchell was surrounded by family, friends and a number of former Spurs teammates when he died.
He is survived by his wife, Diane, and son, Mike Jr.