Stephen Jackson: Hometown Hero
In Partnership With Southwest Airlines, Warriors Captain Hosted 10 Third-Graders From His Native Port Arthur, Texas For Special California Trip
So went 8-year-old Jakayala Breed’s first experience on an airplane. The last few days have provided several firsts for the native Texan: her first trip to California, her first basketball game and her first time being quoted by the media.
Breed was one of 10 third-graders from Dick Dowling Elementary School in Stephen Jackson’s hometown of Port Arthur, Texas, to attend Tuesday’s Warriors-SuperSonics game. Breed and her classmates earned this trip to the Bay Area by winning the Stephen Jackson Essay Contest, presented by Southwest Airlines.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Jackson said. “Giving back to kids is a passion of mine, and we were also able to coordinate with my hometown.”
“This is a great opportunity for us to partner with the Warriors and do a community service project,” said Southwest Airlines Marketing Manager Scott Yamasaki. “When the plane started to accelerate down the runway, all the kids were excited like they were on a rollercoaster. The people who were sitting around me all had a smile on their face.”
In addition to the roundtrip airfare provided by Southwest Airlines, the 10 winning students and their adult chaperones were treated to hotel accommodations for two nights, a trip to San Francisco’s Aquarium of the Bay on Pier 39 and tickets to the Warriors game.
“This has been over the top,” said Judy Jackson, Stephen’s mother, who accompanied the kids on their trip to California. “I didn’t think it was going to be like this. It has really been an enjoyable event. I’ve had fun and the kids have had a ball.”
From there, Jackson departed the scene and headed toward home in order to prepare for his upcoming game. The kids, along with their chaperones and Warriors staff, headed toward Fuddruckers in Emeryville before retiring for the night in their nearby hotel.
As the sun rose on Tuesday morning, so did the day’s activities. After spending the day checking out sharks, sting rays and other aquatic life at the Aquarium of the Bay, the students made their way to ORACLE Arena nearly three hours before Tuesday’s tip-off. During that time, the students met and exchanged gifts with their “hosts” from Ruby Bridges Elementary School in Alameda.
The essay contest winners were then treated to a pregame dinner in ORACLE Arena’s Visiting Family Room before the highlight of the pregame festivities – a special meet-and-greet with Jackson. During his visit with the kids, Jackson asked about their trip to the aquarium and made sure the kids were enjoying their stay in the Bay Area.
The students gave Jackson a moment to remember as well, as they performed a choreographed cheer and dance routine. And before Jackson returned to the locker-room, a pair of Jackson fans gave their favorite player a big hug and wished him luck in his upcoming game. “I’m never going to wash this shirt again!” one of the fans announced after she embraced Jackson.
Before settling into their seats for the game, the Port Arthur third-graders made their way onto the court for pregame introductions. From there, they greeted each player as they received books and other goodies from Jackson and his teammates. The kids would return to the court once more during halftime to be recognized in front of the entire ORACLE Arena crowd for their achievment.
“Some of these kids have never flown before and most of them have never been to a professional basketball game before,” Judy Jackson said. “It means a lot to these kids because they don’t usually get a chance to do these things. We have no other professional (athletes) that come home and do something like this.”
For Jackson, this type of philanthropic effort has become routine. Among other things, he is currently involved with a special auction benefiting recording artist John Legend's 'Show Me Campaign.' And this season, he has made his presence felt throughout the community in a variety of ways. Always willing to give back, Jackson’s efforts have been felt nationwide. From Port Arthur to the Bay Area and beyond, Jackson’s off-the-court impact has become every bit as impressive as his performance on the hardwood.
“He never ceases to amaze me,” Judy Jackson said. “Every time he does something, it gets bigger and bigger. I don’t know what the next time is going to bring, but I’m very proud of him. He’s done very good.”