CHICAGO — For Jasmine Burnham, the stat sheet is of no consequence.
As the DeFuniak Springs native hoops it up alongside NBA legends Dikembe Mutombo and Horace Grant and competes against the likes of WNBA stars A’Ja Wilson and Chelsea Gray in Friday’s NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified Sports Basketball Game in Chicago, she’s not worried about padding her points or assists like she’s done so many times before in the Special Olympics state finals.
Burnham, an 18-year-old senior at Freeport High, will simply be soaking up the experience of NBA’s All-Star Weekend after being selected as one of 12 Special Olympics athletes nationwide.
The 5-foot-4 star will hit the court Friday at 4 p.m. at Wintrust Arena alongside fellow Special Olympians and an eclectic mix of NBA and WNBA greats. The game will be streamed live at https://www.facebook.com/nbacares/.
“Playing, watching … it’s all going to be exciting,” said Burnham, who’s been playing since the age of 5 and also competes in soccer, baseball, tennis and track. “I don’t really have a goal. I just want to play hard and go out there and have fun.”
She’ll play on the East squad alongside five fellow Special Olympians and Chicago Sky star Cheyenne Parker, NBA legends Grant and Toni Kukoc and WNBA legend Cappie Pondexter.
On the West will be six special Olympians playing alongside NBA legends Mutombo, Muggsy Bogues and Jameer Nelson and Las Vegas Aces star Wilson.
“When I get back I can brag about playing with NBA and WNBA players,” Burnham laughed.
The star whom she’ll brag about most?
“Mutombo,” she said.
Yet that’ll just be the beginning of her experience, enjoyed alongside mom Anita Massey for what they called a “girls-only trip.”
After the Friday NBA Cares game comes the All-Star Celebrity Game at 6 p.m. On Saturday, she’ll take part in a basketball clinic and a luncheon before heading to the United Center for the All-Star skills challenge, 3-point shootout and the slam dunk contest.
Then comes the 69th All-Star game Sunday, where Burnham, a Lakers fan, hopes to meet LeBron James.
Then maybe the point guard can compare notes with her idol. After all, she was good enough to be recruited for this honor as a 16-year-old even though the minimum age is 18.
“They’d approach her at the state finals and ask her all these questions and jot down notes,” Massey said. “But she had to wait until she was 18. Finally when she turned 18, we sent in a video application and she was accepted.”
Now she’s enjoying the trip of a lifetime.
“We’re extremely proud of her,” stepdad Mike Ammons said. “I can’t imagine being invited to something like this at 18.
“It’s a dream come true for her.”