Jason’s Story – When passion for life trumps everything else
Jason McElwain, nicknamed J-Mac, was an autistic teenager who graduated in 2006 from Greece Athena High School near Rochester, New York. He’s noted for scoring twenty points during the final four minutes of a high school basketball game on February 16, 2006. It was the last home game of the season for the Greece Athena team.
McElwain had actually never made it onto the basketball team. He was considered too short (5′6″/167 cm) and hadn’t demonstrated an adequate skill level during tryouts. But the coach quickly saw his love and passion for the team and made the boy team manager. At the end of the basketball year, inspired by McElwain’s dedication, coach Jim Johnson thought he might take the opportunity to get McElwain onto the floor during the final home game-provided, of course, that the Greece Athena team was ahead by several points. The coach figured this would be a wonderful way to demonstrate an appreciation for McElwain’s constant enthusiasm and all that the boy had done for the team.
As it happened, the team had a comfortable lead when the coach put McElwain in the game. The boy’s appearance on the court elicited a loud cheer from the supportive home crowd. His first three-point attempt was an air ball, followed by a missed layup, but the crowd never gave up on him. Then, in the last four minutes of the game, McElwain seemingly entered “The Zone,” redeeming himself in spectacular fashion by scoring one two-pointer and six three-pointers! His last three-pointer was the final shot of the game. As the buzzer sounded, he sank the final ball-and the entire crowd erupted with wild jubilation, stormed the court, and swarmed around McElwain and his teammates as they lifted “J-Mac” onto their shoulders.
This amazing moment was captured on the team’s camcorder. The story of the autistic basketball star, and the community support that rallied around him, circulated rapidly and reached a national audience over the following few days and weeks. McElwain made numerous TV appearances (including the CBS Evening News, Oprah, and The Today Show) and met President Bush. And yes, a film of his life story is in the works.
Good news, apparently, does travel fast.