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Autistic hoops star scores movie deal By Tatiana Siegel
Wed Apr 19, 1:19 AM ET
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Columbia Pictures has acquired the life rights to Jason McElwain, an autistic teenager who morphed from a basketball benchwarmer into an international media sensation after hitting six three-pointers in the final four minutes of a high school game.
Basketball great Earvin "Magic" Johnson will serve as an executive producer.
McElwain, a Rochester, N.Y., senior nicknamed "J-Mac" by his friends, never made the varsity team because of his size and instead served as its student manager. But in the waning minutes of the final game of the regular season in February, his coach rewarded McElwain's dedication and attitude by putting him into the game.
McElwain's first three-point attempt was an air ball, which he followed with a missed layup. He then scored six three-pointers, his last one the final shot of the game -- a feat that Johnson said would be nearly impossible for a seasoned pro to accomplish, nevermind a high schooler not accustomed to playing time.
"When I first saw the highlights on ESPN and then heard Jason's back story, I said, 'Man, I've got to be a part of this.' This story touched me, my kids, my wife," said Johnson. "When we go to the movies, this is the type of story we want to see."
McElwain's feat quickly snowballed from a local story to a media frenzy, with footage of his scoring outburst making its way to ESPN's "SportsCenter" and ABC's "Good Morning America."
Sources say the story sparked a heated bidding war, which came down to Columbia, the Weinstein Co., New Line Cinema and Universal Pictures/Imagine Entertainment.
"Forget sports for a moment -- you have to be ready for your moment," said Johnson, who also executive produced the hoops drama "Passing Glory." "This story represents everything I talk about as a motivational speaker. You have to be prepared for your one chance."
The project will be produced by Laura Ziskin ("Spider-Man"), while Mary Martin is also executive producing.
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