Every fall, NBA teams bring players to training camp that they don't necessarily expect to make their final roster for a variety of reasons — they want to create competition, they want to take a look at a player who might be a fit on their D-League squad, etc. The Utah Jazz, though, added a player Monday for a different, and much cooler, reason.
JP Gibson is a five-year-old from Layton, Utah, and for more than half his life, he's battled acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow that ranks as the most common type of cancer among children. He loves basketball, shooting hoops at his home and watching the local team with his dad.
"He knows he has to be six before he can play Junior Jazz [the NBA team's official youth basketball league] and he reminds us all the time that he can't wait until he's six," JP's mom, Megan Gibson, said, according to Aaron Falk of the Salt Lake Tribune.
Utah's brass presented a simple solution to this problem: JP would join the Senior Jazz.
From the team's official announcement:
The Utah Jazz announced today that the team has signed five-year-old free agent guard JP Gibson to a one-day contract. Per team policy, financial terms were not released. [ED. NOTE: That's a nice touch, Jazz media relations folk.]
Gibson, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2012, will be in uniform and join the Jazz on the bench for tonight’s open scrimmage at 6:30 p.m. at EnergySolutions Arena. He will sign his contract with Jazz President Randy Rigby at 5:30 p.m. in the Jazz interview room (Room 145), adjacent to the locker room. JP will be joined by his parents, Josh and Megan, and his two-year-old sister Elsie.
The contract signing presser was totally official, complete with JP rocking a shirt and tie and signing on the dotted line:
... albeit in purple crayon rather than blue or black ink:
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) October 7, 2014
During his pregame press conference, JP said he expected to score seven points in the team's Monday night intra-squad scrimmage. Some vets might consider that kind of talk a bit brash coming from an untested rook, but as JP showed, it's not bragging if you can back it up:
JP's not the first defender to make Steve Novak look that bad off the bounce, but that doesn't make his move any less impressive — to say nothing of that finish. (Although you have to wonder what 7-foot-1 defender Rudy Gobert was thinking lifting up an offensive player to dunk like that.)
After the scrimmage, multiple members of the Jazz expressed their appreciation for having gotten to be a part of JP's special day:
It really was a blessing having JP make his dream into reality. I will be praying for him 🙏. Touched me cause I have a child
— Dee Bost (@DB3BOST) October 7, 2014
— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) October 7, 2014
Me and JP Staying focused, watching the game pic.twitter.com/fMS535dmyt
— Jeremy Evans (@JeremyEvans40) October 7, 2014
— Dahntay (@dahntay1) October 7, 2014
— rudy gobert (@rudygobert15) October 7, 2014
After showing out with the local pros, JP got a celebratory bite at the Golden Arches, where the young star was still rocking his green alternate Jazz uniform:
— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) October 7, 2014
It was, of course, a dream come true for young JP, a boy "whose parents weren’t sure if he’d be able to walk or run at one point," according to Falk.
"It’s a new world we were thrown into [when JP was diagnosed]," JP's father, Josh Gibson, said. "It’s hard to deal with it, but it’s life."
On Monday, life was pretty good for Utah's newest ball-handling star.
— Megan Gibson (@mgngbsn) October 7, 2014
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