Three-time NBA champion and Phoenix Suns center JaVale McGee and his mother, former USC All-American basketball player Pamela McGee, have made history as the first mother-son duo to both earn gold Olympic medals.
Pamela, a retired WNBA player and two-time Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer, earned her gold as a member of the U.S. women’s basketball team in the 1984 Olympic Games. Now her son JaVale has followed in her footsteps, taking home the gold on Saturday, Aug. 7, after landing a last-minute spot playing basketball for Team USA in the 2020 Tokyo Games.
The athletes and their medals joined “Today” on Wednesday, Aug. 11, to celebrate JaVale’s accomplishment and the historic milestone it resulted in. During their chat with the show’s hosts, both mom and son beamed with pride, and Pam admitted that the “full-circle” moment was quite “surreal.”
“It’s surreal. It’s almost like full-circle because he’s been at all of my championships, all of my events, and now my running gag is I’m the only Olympian basketball player to birth an Olympian!” she laughed.
“I’m really proud of him, his resiliency,” she continued. “As mothers, we just want them to max out their capacity and to be the best that God has called them to be, and it’s nothing higher than a gold medal.”
Regarding his Olympic experience, JaVale noted that it was “totally different” than playing in the NBA because “you’re fighting for your country.”
“When you’re in the NBA, you’re fighting for your state, I guess, the team that your state is in. … You’re fighting for your city, I guess. But it’s different fighting for your country. Everybody in the world is watching, and you’re on a world stage, so definitely an amazing experience.”
Pamela explained that the lessons of sacrifice, resiliency, and excellence, that she passed down to her children were ones that her mother, who overcame her own personal obstacles as a teen mom, taught her at a young age.
“What I instilled in both of my children is to max out your capacity. Never be a child that says, ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda,'” said Pamela. “I was born to a teenage mother that had twins at 17, and she instilled that spirit of excellence and resiliency. I just hope that I passed that down to them, that they understand that they didn’t just wake up and become Olympians. Somebody sacrificed, somebody paid a price and it’s their obligation to take it to the next level.”
Those childhood lessons of “excellence and resiliency” appear to have been taken to heart by both of her children. Pamela’s daughter Imani McGee-Stafford played for the WNBA before taking a break to attend law school, which also makes Pam the first former WNBA baller to have children play for both the men’s and women’s professional leagues.