James Donaldson (basketball)

James Lee Donaldson III (born August 16, 1957) is an English-American retired professional basketball player who grew up in California and played 14 seasons in the National Basketball Association and several leagues across Europe. Born in Heacham, England, Donaldson played high school basketball for Luther Burbank High School before enrolling at Washington State University to play for the Cougars.

James Donaldson
James Donaldson 01A.jpg
Donaldson during his 2009 race for Mayor of Seattle.
Personal information
Born (1957-08-17) August 17, 1957 (age 63)
Heacham, England
NationalityEnglish / American
Listed height7 ft 2 in (2.18 m)
Listed weight275 lb (125 kg)
Career information
High schoolLuther Burbank
(Sacramento, California)
CollegeWashington State (1975–1979)
NBA draft1979 / Round: 4 / Pick: 73rd overall
Selected by the Seattle SuperSonics
Playing career1979–1999
Number40, 35, 54
Career history
1979–19803A Antonini Siena
19801983Seattle SuperSonics
19831985San Diego / Los Angeles Clippers
19851991Dallas Mavericks
1991–1992New York Knicks
1993Utah Jazz
1993–1994Iraklis Thessaloniki
1995Utah Jazz
1996–1997Caja San Fernando
1997Snai Montecatini
1998–1999Gymnastikos S. Larissas
Career highlights and awards
Career NBA statistics
Points8,203 (8.6 ppg)
Rebounds7,492 (7.8 rpg)
Blocks1,267 (1.6 bpg)
Stats at Basketball-Reference.com

Amateur careerEdit

Donaldson, a 7'2" center, starred at Luther Burbank High School and Washington State in the late 1970s. In his 4 seasons at WSU he averaged 8.5 points per game and 8.1 rebounds per game in 84 games.[1] As of April 2015 he was the all-time leader in career blocked shots (176), blocks average (2.1), single-season blocks (82 in 1977–78), single-season blocks average (3.0 in 1977–78) and single-game blocked shots (eight versus Stanford, January 25, 1978).[2] He was inducted into the Pac-12 Hall of Honor and WSU's athletic hall of fame in 2006.[2]

Professional careerEdit

After being drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1979 NBA draft he signed a contract with 3A Antonini Siena of the Italian Serie A.[3]

Donaldson played three seasons with Seattle before moving on to the San Diego (later Los Angeles) Clippers. During the 1984–85 NBA season, he led the league in field goal percentage at 0.637 — still one of the ten highest percentages in NBA history.

Donaldson cited Artis Gilmore, Darryl Dawkins, Moses Malone, Truck Robinson and Maurice Lucas as some of the strongest players he played against early in his career.[4]

Donaldson joined the Dallas Mavericks in 1985. He joked with teammates that leaving the lowly, dysfunctional Clippers for the Mavericks was like dying and going to Heaven.[5] He had his finest years while playing for the Mavericks, providing rebounding and shot-blocking to complement Dallas' star-studded line-up, which included Mark Aguirre, Rolando Blackman, Roy Tarpley, Derek Harper, Sam Perkins, and Brad Davis. Donaldson himself earned a spot on the 1988 All-Star Team during a season in which the Mavericks reached the Western Conference Finals before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers.[6] The NY Daily News named him the worst All-Star player ever after a fans voting.[7] Sadly, things fell apart for the Mavericks generally in the late 1980s and early 1990s as their core group was either traded away (like Aguirre) or squandered vast potential via personal problems (like Tarpley) and Donaldson became the target for many fans and even his teammates for the franchise's woes, making the end of his otherwise hugely successful tenure in Dallas inevitable.

After brief stints with the New York Knicks (traded midway through 1991–92 for Brian Quinnett) and Utah Jazz (49 games in two seasons combined) in the early 1990s, injuries forced Donaldson into retirement from the NBA. He left the league in 1995, with 8,203 career points, 7,492 career rebounds and 1,267 career blocks. He played in 957 NBA games without ever attempting a 3-point shot, a record among players from the 3-point era.

On August 1, 1993 he signed for Greek Basket League club Iraklis.[8] He played in 30 games for Iraklis averaging 12.1 points per game, 12.2 rebounds per game and 2.2 blocks per game.[8] In the 1996–97 season he played for Caja San Fernando averaging 3.5 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.[9] He also had spells with Snai Montecatini (Italy, 1997–98, for only six games), Breogán Lugo (Spain, two stints, in 1998 and 1999) and Gymnastikos S. Larissas (Greek Second Division, 1998–99), retiring for good at the age of 41.[8][9][10]

Personal lifeEdit

Upon retiring, Donaldson settled in the Seattle area, where he runs the Donaldson Clinic, a physical therapy business in Mill Creek, Washington[11] He is also a motivational speaker.

In 2009, Donaldson ran for the non-partisan office of Seattle mayor and came in fourth among the candidates.[12] In 2010, Donaldson joined the College Success Foundation as the Director of the Tacoma College Success Foundation.[13]

In January 2018, Donaldson survived an aortic dissection.[14]


  1. ^ "James Donaldson stats". sports-reference.com. Archived from the original on April 27, 2015. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "WSU Athletic Hall of Fame". Washington State University. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  3. ^ Van Sickel, Charlie (August 20, 1979). "Citrus Canker Lawsuit Headed Back to Trial". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  4. ^ USA Today. December 9, 1982
  5. ^ Siegel, Alan (May 6, 2015). "What It Was Like To Play For The '80s Clippers, The Worst Team In Sports". Deadspin. Gawker Media. Retrieved May 6, 2015.
  6. ^ "The Most Undeserving NBA All-Star Selections of All Time". complex.com. February 13, 2014. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  7. ^ "NBA Worst All-Star Ever Tournament: We have a winner and it is James Donaldson!". NY Daily News. February 16, 2015. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  8. ^ a b c "Ξαφνικά, έπρεπε να παίξω και... επίθεση!" (in Greek). SENTRA Goal. September 21, 2012. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  9. ^ a b "Historias de (Solo)Basket: Dinosaurios NBA, última estación – Europa" (in Spanish). Solobasket.com. May 11, 2010. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  10. ^ "NBA All-Stars who played Overseas". nba-allstar.com. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  11. ^ Pablo S. Torre (July 4, 2011). "Larger Than Real Life". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on April 27, 2015. Retrieved April 19, 2015.
  12. ^ "Cash fading, Seattle mayoral candidate James Donaldson adjusts his game plan". The Seattle Times. July 24, 2009. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  13. ^ "James Donaldson Joins College Success Foundation – as Tacoma Director". College Success Foundation. April 9, 2010. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  14. ^ Art Thiel (May 16, 2018). "Turning the Page: After struggles, 16-year NBA vet James Donaldson wants to help young athletes shed mental health stigma". The Athletic. Retrieved August 31, 2019.

External linksEdit