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 “It is with great honor and gratitude that I accept being inducted into the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame. It brings back wonderful memories of growing up in Sacramento, and the very instrumental people in my life at the time that I give all the credit to in getting me started and keeping me going towards achieving all that I’ve achieved in life.”

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James Donaldson

Professional Basketball

High School:  Burbank
College:  Washington State University

* NBA Career:  14 Years (Seattle, Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas, New York, 

* 8,203 Career Points
7,492 Career Rebounds
1,267 Career Blocks
* NBA All-Star Selection (1988)

* Washington State University Athletic Hall of Fame Inductee (2006)


James Donaldson was born in Meacham, England and arrived in the United States with his military family and came to Sacramento after spending time at Travis Air Force Base.  At the age of five he moved to South Sacramento and eventually went to Burbank High School. 


Entering high school at 6’8” you would think basketball would come naturally to him. But he wasn’t interested in basketball or any sport for that matter.  Being a shy kid who was very introverted and not athletically inclined, James turned down offers to join the basketball team.  Finally in his junior year, he was persuaded to give it a try.  It wasn’t until his senior year he agreed to play on a team for the very first time.  He was still very raw, but he began to improve.  In his first game he had 24 points and 13 rebounds.  After that, James gained confidence and was slowly attracting attention.


James was recruited by legendary coach George Raveling, who saw something special in him. He accepted a scholarship to Washington State University.  By the time James was a junior he started to fill out physically and grew to 7’2” and 285 pounds.  He averaged nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds per game and ended up being the Cougars all-time career leader in blocked shots.


In 1979 James was drafted by the Seattle Super Sonics and became a starter in his second season.  After three years in Seattle, he was then traded to the Clippers.  In the 1984-85 season he led the NBA in Field Goal Percentage while hitting 64 percent of his shots.  It is one of the 10 bests marks in NBA history.


The next season James was going to be traveling again. This time it would be for the better as he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks.  James had seven outstanding seasons in Dallas and was part of three playoff teams.  James was one of the best centers in the league and earned an All-Star selection in 1988. 


He also played for the Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks and then finished his NBA career with the Utah Jazz.  James was a key member of he Jazz who won 60 games in his final season.  He continued to play overseas and ended his career by winning a championship in Spain at the age of 42.


After his playing career, James returned to Seattle and opened a Physical Therapy Business, the Donaldson Clinic.  He also ran for Mayor of Seattle in 2009 & 2021.  However, James suffered some unfortunate and traumatic moments as well.  After undergoing Open Heart Surgery in 2015 along with three other major surgeries in a five year span, James wasn’t sure how or why this was happening.  He spent two weeks in a coma and over two months in intensive care.  He then had to learn how to walk again.  James had some tough battles with anxiety and depression, and often considered taking his own life.  He lost his businesses and basically had to start all over again.


But with faith and perseverance, he overcame those challenging times by facing those issues head on. James is now a champion for Mental Health Awareness and is the author of two bestselling books detailing his life in “Standing Above the Crowd “ and  “Celebrating Your Gift of Life.” He is also a successful motivational speaker, telling the world his story.


James made a career of doing the unexpected. He played professional basketball for 20 years. During his 14 years in the NBA, he scored 8,203 points, collected 7,492  rebounds and blocked 1,267 shots.  He has led by example as a community leader and becoming a successful author.  Doing it all through focus, commitment, and the sheer desire to succeed.  


From a basketball perspective, James will be remembered as one of Sacramento’s best big men and NBA centers.  More importantly he is recognized for his perseverance for overcoming serious health issues and being a positive role model and leader in his community. 

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