LaMarcus Aldridge wasn’t the only Portland area All-Star to take on Orlando this weekend. Jackie Buxton, a 21-year-old Special Olympics athlete, took Center Court this afternoon to represent Portland in the first ever NBA Cares Special Olympics Unity Sports Basketball Game. Jackie earned the opportunity to be one of twelve Special Olympics athletes to participate in this event after writing a winning essay.
“They contacted me and asked me if I could play. I was so nervous, but I was like, “Uhh, I guess I could.” My sister was like, “No, you have to play!” My sister is so sad that she couldn’t come,” Jackie told us after her team, the West, tied the East 57-57 in well-fought, light-hearted battle Sunday afternoon.
Jackie’s team, coached by the Minnesota Timberwolves’ rookie star Derrick Williams, included five other Special Olympics athletes, WNBA players Marie Ferdinand-Harris and Sophia Young, NBA legend Chris Mullins, and the most special teammate of them all – Clyde Drexler. What was it like playing on the same team as the Portland Trail Blazer great? “That was way awesome. I was so happy when I found out I got him on my team. He’s bigger than I thought!”
Jackie’s mom, grandma and one of her Special Olympics coaches accompanied her to cheer her on in her first All-Star game. Jackie’s coach, Katie Waterstreet, said that the Special Olympics athletes have been receiving the All-Star treatment this weekend. They attended the BBVA Rising Stars Competition on Friday night as well as the NBA All-Star Saturday Night, which included events such as the Skills Contest and the Slam Dunk Contest. But just as the NBA All-Stars do every year, the Special Olympics All-Stars also gave back to the community this weekend, helping build a playground for the Children’s Safety Village of Central Florida, a “miniature city” that teaches children how to prevent injuries and accidents.
Of her experience this weekend, Jackie said, “It’s been good, I’ve been tired a lot. I come home and am exhausted. It’s been cool being a part of all of the events.”
What was Jackie’s favorite part of the weekend? (Aside from playing in her first All-Star game, of course.) “We went to the Amway Center last night [for the All-Star Saturday Night], and I got to see the guy dunk two basketballs through the hoop. That was my favorite one.”
While playing on the same team as Clyde Drexler was quite a thrill, Jackie’s favorite Trail Blazer is none other than LaMarcus Aldridge, which is very fitting considering they were both representing Portland at an All-Star level in Orlando this weekend.
All photos taken by Huy Tran.