By Jordan Hall
He’s more than just a basketball player. With Jason Thompson, there’s more than the bright lights, big stage and NBA fame, because Thompson was once young. He was once a kid dreaming big things. Now, the Rider graduate is home, giving back and allowing youngsters to dream as well, on and off the court.
Thompson, a power forward for the Sacramento Kings, has reached out to the community in multiple ways this summer. Despite the NBA lockout, Thompson has kept himself busy by benefitting his local surroundings.
From running basketball camps to introducing his L.I.V.E Like JT campaign around the Philadelphia area, the former Bronc is making a difference for underprivileged children.
“Not just help kids for the basketball aspect, but help get to the voice of their cause with education as well,” Thompson said.
With the help of his public relations manager, Crystal Carroll, Thompson created his campaign, L.I.V.E Like JT, which stands for Learn, Imagine, Voice and Educate.
According to the campaign’s description, Thompson’s goal for his outreach is to “encourage children to strive towards academic and social excellence. With four key messages, our goal is to equip as many children as possible with the skills and opportunities they deserve despite their environment.”
Thompson has already begun fundraising and has major plans for the program’s future, something he wants to continue for years to come. The Camden Riversharks, a professional baseball team, held a Jason Thompson Day on Aug. 20 to help raise money for L.I.V.E Like JT. The event consisted of many festivities including Thompson throwing out the first pitch, addressing the crowd, an autograph session and much more.
“The tickets that were either presold or sold at the game went to my fundraiser and it was a great turn out,” said Thompson. “The players got to wear my Sacramento-type J.T. jerseys, they won the game and had fireworks afterwards. Just letting people know that I’m giving back and for them to support me when I’m out in Sacramento.”
Away from the baseball diamond, Thompson, a South Jersey native, took time to visit the Philadelphia school district on Career Day where he told his story and explained his campaign to the students.
“I got to go to one of the schools in Philly and it was their career day,” said Thompson. “Some had doctors, some had lawyers and one was me, a professional athlete. A lot of kids played basketball and wanted to know my life and story. It was a good experience.”
Thompson wants to continue fundraising for L.I.V.E Like JT and hopes to expand by having more events. With the amount of success that Thompson has achieved, there are plenty of places he’d like to work. The 25-year-old wants to hold an annual golf tournament for athletes and celebrities, organize a South Jersey All-Star game and give back to the college where he turned into an NBA prospect.
“I’m going to reunite with Rider and try to have a camp with the university and myself,” he said. “I’m trying to have a Rider Hall of Fame game as well and have a big crowd come to that and raise money for the new arena that we’re trying to build.”
Running camps will be no problem for Thompson because he jumped ahead this summer. The fourth-year pro directed a basketball camp from July 11-15 at the Life Center Academy, the facility he trains at during the offseason. The camp was for ages 6-17-year-olds and worked on all facets of the game.
Many kids were unable to afford the admission fee, but that didn’t stop Thompson from allowing them to attend; Thompson paid for several campers.
“I wanted to bring out the talent in all different types of communities, from the cities to the suburbs,” said Thompson. “Not everyone has the money or the transportation, so I just wanted to help out. I’m going to start trying to have clinics and camps and things like that for kids to show their talent because some kids don’t have the opportunity to do that and I want to give it to them.”
As for Thompson, he and his fellow NBAers are mired in a lockout. The 6’11’’ big man fractured his right big toe but has recuperated since then and is almost at 100 percent. He continues his practice and training program each day, and this summer, he thoroughly enjoyed lending a helping hand, giving kids a chance they may have never gotten.
“A lot of kids in tough situations think they can’t do it or reach their goals,” said Thompson. “I’m trying to give them hope.”