Mavs From the Past: James Donaldson


James Donaldson arrived to the Dallas Mavericks through a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers on November 25, 1985. He made an immediate impact as soon as he joined the Mavericks, playing in 69 games with them for the season and starting in 64 games at Center. In his first season in Dallas Donaldson averaged 8.3 points per game (PPG), 9.6 rebounds per game (RPG), 1.2 assists per game (APG), and 1.6 blocks per game (BPG). Due to being traded mid-season to the Mavericks, Donaldson played in 83 games that season instead of the normal 82 games.

Donaldson played in and started every game in his second year with the Mavericks. He took a step up when it came to his statistics for the season, as he averaged 10.8 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 0.8 APG, and 1.7 BPG. By his third season with the Mavericks his hard work paid off as he became an All-Star, his only All-Star appearance during his career. In that same season in which he was an All-Star, the Mavericks made the Western Conference Finals and fell in 7 games to the eventual NBA Champions, the Los Angeles Lakers.

In his fourth season with the Mavericks everything was going well for Donaldson, until he suffered a knee injury in March in a game against the Houston Rockets, where he suffered a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee and missed the rest of the season. He was only able to play in 53 games. He recovered however in time for the beginning of next season and played in a majority of the games. 

Donaldson continued to average similar numbers and played in and started in all 82 games during the 1990-1991 season. However, the Mavericks weren’t succeeding since their Western Conference Finals appearance, having their highest standing in the division being third since then. With stars from the core group having been traded away or having personal problems, it was only a matter of time before it was Donaldson’s turn. His time came on February 20, 1992, when he was traded to the New York Knicks.

Donaldson finished the 1991-1992 season with the Knicks but was then released by them in the 1992 offseason. He signed with the Utah Jazz in April of 1993, where he played with them for the rest of the season. In August of 1993, he signed with Iraklis of the Greek Basketball League, where he played that season. Donaldson then came back to the Jazz in the following season but injuries limited how much he could play and on December 4, 1995, he was waived by the Jazz. That would be the end of Donaldson’s NBA career.

Donaldson played a crucial role as the Mavericks starting center from the mid 80’s to the early 90’s. While in Dallas, he averaged 8.8 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 0.8 APG, and 1.3 BPG. He finished his career as a one time NBA All-Star with the Mavericks. He finished his career as a one time NBA All-Star with the Mavericks. He never attempted a three-pointer throughout his whole career, 957 games, which is a record that still stands.

Since retiring, Donaldson has been on many different ventures. He continued to play basketball overseas in Spain, Italy, and Greece, officially retiring from the sport in 1999. Once he retired he moved near Seattle, where he ran a physical therapy clinic known as the Donaldson Clinic in Washington state. The final office in Mills Creek, Washington closed its doors in 2018, after operating for 28 years.

Donaldson is also a motivational speaker. In 2009, he ran to become the mayor of Seattle but came in fourth place. In 2010, he became the director of the College Success Foundation, where he helped with fundraising and worked with the Tacoma school district. In 2021, he ran again for mayor of Seattle but had no luck again.

In 2017, Donaldson had depression and suicidal thoughts that he was able to fight through and beat. In 2018, however, he had a health scare when he had an aortic dissection, a vascular disorder that occurs when the aorta tears and causes layers of the aorta to separate due to blood surge. He survived the aortic dissection after successful surgery. He was also diagnosed with sleep apnea.

Donaldson had a long and healthy career, but his later life became a mirror image. The Maverick star was able to fight through all the health problems and has been living a healthy life since.

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