Kris Koivisto's Blog

Kris Koivisto

Feb 22

LA isn't Heading to Orlando Alone

By Kris Koivisto Posted in: allstar, allstarweekend, jackiebuxton, LaMarcusAldridge, specialolympics

At 4:07 p.m. on Thursday, February 9th, every Trail Blazers fan in the city – our office included – exploded when we heard the news that LaMarcus Aldridge was selected to represent Portland in the 2012 NBA All-Star game in Orlando. We produced placards, print ads, t-shirts and ticket packages - even the twitter hashtag #RipCityAllStar was trending within minutes.

Little did we know that LaMarcus wouldn’t be the only one representing the Northwest in Orlando.



That following Monday, the NBA announced that Jackie Buxton, a Special Olympics athlete competing out of Forest Grove, was selected to participate in the inaugural NBA Cares Unity Sports Game during All-Star Weekend. In fact, she was up against tougher odds than Aldridge during the selection process. While LaMarcus is one of 12 players representing the Western Conference in the NBA All-Star Game, Jackie is one of six athletes representing the West in the Unity Sports Game.

The NBA Cares Unity Sports Game combines 12 Special Olympics athletes, four NBA Legends (including former Trail Blazer Clyde Drexler), three NBA players, WNBA players and celebrities as teammates to showcase the power of Special Olympics’ Unified Sports program.

"The NBA Cares Special Olympics Unity Sports Basketball Game is about having fun, promoting fitness and bringing people together," NBA Senior Vice President of Community Relations Todd Jacobson explained.

The Trail Blazers and Special Olympics Oregon thought a Jackie-LaMarcus introduction was appropriate before they both travel across the country and are submerged in the bright lights of All-Star Weekend. So on Tuesday, the team invited Jackie to meet LaMarcus during a closed-doors gathering following the Trail Blazers shootaround at the Rose Garden.

The soft-spoken Aldridge quickly initiated the conversation with a star-struck Jackie. Her coach, Katie Waterstreet, jumped into the banter to help Jackie feel more comfortable. After all, it was a behind-the-scenes all-access visit with a 6' 11" NBA All-Star, most people would be nervous. They posed for a few pictures and talked about their upcoming trip before Aldridge headed to the locker room to prepare for that evening's game against the San Antonio Spurs.

But that was just the beginning of a memorable night for Jackie.

90 minutes later Jackie and Coach Waterstreet stood at the scorer’s table waiting for their cue. They absorbed the raucous Rose Garden Arena, which was abuzz with flashing lights, BlazerDancers, mascot Blaze and the Stunt Team pumping up 20,000 anxious Trail Blazers fans. {full video below}

Following player introductions and the national anthem sung by country singer Shane Clouse, Jackie courageously walked out to center court as PA announcer Mark Mason informed the sellout Rose Garden crowd of her accomplishments. She was met by Aldridge, who presented her with an autographed jersey and a hug. She returned the favor by handing him a custom #12 “Buxton” jersey. They paused for a moment to display their new jerseys as cameras flashed, then LaMarcus went out and scored 21 points, leading Portland to an NBA season-high 137 points in blowout fashion.

After the game, Jackie left the Rose Garden saying, "My heart is still pounding. That was like a dream. It was so amazing to meet LaMarcus!"

 

3 Comments

  1. Two All-Stars going to Orlando! Way to go! :)

    by Niki C on 2/23/2012 12:36 PM
  2. Fantastic! This brought tears to my eyes.

    by azblazer on 2/23/2012 12:51 PM
  3. That is awesome. I have a cousin with Downs Syndrome and he participates in Special Olympics activities. It is such a joy to see them having fun at doing these events.

    by blazerdarren77 on 2/23/2012 4:05 PM
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