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Former Rockford Lightning player Mario Donaldson | Stateline Stories

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — People often reflect on their first love and the story behind it, whether it was their first relationship or a crush. For Mario Donaldson, his first love wasn’t a girl or cars, it was basketball.

“Basketball was the first thing I ever fell in love with, before a girl, before cars like boys do, before anything else,” Donaldson said. “Not only did I have a passion for it, but I dreamed about it. If I sat in church, a lot of times I couldn’t pay attention because I was picturing me playing basketball.”

Basketball has opened many doors and opportunities for Donaldson. The sport has allowed him to travel the world, meet different types of people and, most importantly, do what he loves, play basketball.

After graduating from Drake University in 1990, he was drafted by the Rockford Lightning, which was one reason why he ended up staying in the Stateline.

However, before he settled down with his wife and four kids, he traveled the world playing basketball.

“I got traded to Omaha and ended up winning the CBA Championship and from there, it opened up opportunities for me to play basketball overseas and I ended up doing that for 11 years, traveling and playing.”

Canada, Australia, Israel, Venezuela, Cyprus, Greece, Philippines, Argentina and Puerto Rico. These are all the places Donaldson was fortunate enough to travel to and play basketball.

Donaldson says his talent helped him pursue his passion.

“I had a gift, physically and athletically,” he said. “All of us [my family] was tall, but I had this gift.”

His skills on the court landed him a spot on the varsity team at his school as a freshman, and he was the only freshman accepted to varsity. By the time he was a senior, he was named the top 24 players in the state of Mississippi.

As Donaldson looks back at his life’s work and accomplishment, he is thankful for everything basketball has given him.

“It has allowed me to see the world, to meet so many different people, I have friends that live in Israel, friends that live in Australia that I still have contact with to this day, I have friends that play in the NBA or coaching in the NBA,” he said. “Playing basketball is what I love and I’ll always do it whenever I get the chance.”

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