Autistic Teen Heads For Silver Screen

Jason McElwain came close to blurting out who he wanted to play the starring role in an inspirational Hollywood movie about him being co-produced by basketball great Magic Johnson.

"If I could release a name ..." the autistic teen said Wednesday as he stood next to Johnson in the gym where he made six three-pointers in his first and only appearance for Greece Athena High School's varsity team.

Catching his mother's eye, McElwain hesitated. Then, in a firm voice that drew a burst of laughter, he said, "I don't care who plays who — as long as it's a great movie."

Asked how difficult McElwain's feat was, Johnson said, "Oh man, I know I couldn't have done it."

"Yeah, you could have! Yeah, you could have!" an incredulous McElwain, who's come to be known as "J-Mac," interjected.

"No, no," Johnson insisted, laughing. "I'm not a shooter. I could run the show and get it to guys like you 'cause you can shoot it. That was my job."

Johnson, who has become a business entrepreneur, political activist and part-owner of the Los Angeles Lakers since retiring from basketball more than a decade ago, stopped off in the Rochester suburb of Greece, N.Y. to make it official — he's bringing McElwain's "amazing story" to the big screen.

"I think it would give young people a lot of hope," Johnson told reporters. "And not just young people living with autism, but all young people. It would help them to reach their goals and dreams. and tell them never to give up. And also, be ready for your shot when called upon."

In February, the 17-year-old basketball manager known to all as "J-Mac" suited up for Greece Athena's final home game of the season. Put in with 4 minutes to go after his team opened a large lead, he scored 20 points and was carried off the court on his teammates' shoulders.

His jaw-dropping feat, captured on a student video, drew international attention and a flood of calls from Hollywood. Sony Corp.'s Columbia Pictures recently acquired the life rights to McElwain and his parents, Debbie and David.
  • Melissa McNamara

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