SACRAMENTO – When it comes to World Down Syndrome Day, Justin Jackson is all-in.
The Dallas Mavericks’ forward is all-in because Down Syndrome is a genetic disorder that has hit very close to Jackson’s home.
“My wife (Brooke) has an aunt that has Down Syndrome, but it was really just a passion of my wife,” Jackson told Mavs.com. “Once we got married (in August of 2017) it became a passion of mine, so that’s kind of what started this whole thing and that’s what’s going to kind of keep it going.”
Jackson, who started his NBA career with the Sacramento Kings in 2017, is on the verge of launching a non-profit in Sacramento that involves those afflicted with Down Syndrome. That non-profit will have a resemblance to Gigi’s Playhouse, whose purpose is to change the way the world views Down Syndrome while amplifying a message that everyone should be accepted.
Thus, since the Mavs are in Sacramento to play the Kings on Thursday at 9 p.m., for Jackson it’s ironic that Dallas’ arrival coincides with Thursday being World Down Syndrome Day.
While in Sacramento, Jackson’s day will be filled with media obligations and the wearing of his T-shirts that support Down Syndrome. Plus, during the game he’ll be wearing brightly-colored socks and sneakers in support of World Down Syndrome Day.
“It’s super important for me,” Jackson said, referring to World Down Syndrome Day. “I always tell everybody basketball is definitely my job and I take it super serious, but it’s not the most important thing in my life.
“Loving people and doing that is what I feel like is my job that God put me on this earth for.”
Jackson is totally aware that Down Syndrome is the largest chromosomal disability in the country, yet it is the least funded. He wants to do his part to help change that.
“Basketball is obviously great, it makes money for my family, it’s fun to play,” Jackson said. “So it’s awesome and I’m going to put everything I have into it.
“But off the court and everything in life, there’s some other big things in my life as well.”
Off the court, the Mavs acquired Jackson from the Kings on Feb. 6 for Harrison Barnes and Zach Randolph. Since his arrival in Dallas, the 6-8 forward has been trying to find his rhythm with the Mavs, and that finally happened during Wednesday’s 126-118 loss in Portland when Jackson was 8-of-15 from the field and tallied 21 points in 34 minutes.
“I like his movement, I like his activity, I like the fact that he can score off the move,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’re working hard with him on his 3-point shooting and footwork to allow him to create from time-to-time with the shot-clock running down.
“He’s a great kid, he’s a heck of a worker and he wants to get better. He’s been a really nice addition to our team.”
As far as playing for the first time against the team where his NBA career started, Jackson is very enthusiastic about that prospect.
“I don’t have any hard feelings towards (the Kings),” said Jackson, who turns 24 on Mar. 28. “I love those guys that are still there, so it’s going to be fun to go against them outside of practicing against them.”
Still, while Jackson will obviously be focused on helping the Mavs defeat the Kings, his attention and his heart will also be on the Down Syndrome platform he and his wife has undertaken.
“Obviously it’s going to be cool to go back and play against my old team,” Jackson said. “But off the court (Thursday) is World Down Syndrome Day, which is super big for me and my wife.
“We’ve got a non-profit actually coming out in Sacramento. So, we’ve got a bunch of stuff planned for (Thursday) that’s going to be really cool.”