SALT LAKE CITY – After signing a lucrative contract with the Jazz, Joe Ingles felt the responsibility to find ways to make a difference in his adopted American hometown.
He and his wife, Renae, wanted to give back, recognizing the tremendous blessings that come with the life of an NBA player. Little did they know, two years later, the method they chose would become so personal.
Last month, after learning their son was diagnosed with autism, as Ingles and his wife grappled with the difficult situation, they soon realized the great opportunity that awaited. After recently going public with 2-year-old Jacob’s condition, the Ingles’ plan to take full advantage of their platform.
“I still remember the day I signed I said we wanted to help families and kids,” Ingles said during an interview on The Zone Sports Network. “We never had a plan of what we wanted to do or how we wanted to do it, we just wanted to help. This has given us such a lane to focus in.”
“We’re going to put the awareness out there,” he said. “We’re going to push it unbelievably. The fundraising for us is going to start soon. We’re going to try to help as many families and kids as we can that are in the same position that aren’t as lucky as we are to be able to afford it.”
That Ingles is in position to even belong to this community is remarkable. From his native Australia to Utah, with stops in several countries along the way, the sharpshooting forward has had quite the journey up to this point.
Turning professional as a teenager, Ingles began his basketball sojourn back home in 2006. He moved on to the Europe for five years all the while eyeing a shot at the NBA.
After playing in summer league competition but not following up with making a team, Ingles gave the NBA one final shot in 2014. Thinking he had made the Clippers team, as Renae was flying from Australia to join him in Los Angeles, Ingles was cut at the last minute when an injury to another player led management to retool the roster.
Assuming his NBA dream was shattered, Ingles got a call from the Jazz shortly before the season began. From practically the last man on the bench, he has become a mainstay on a team that has won a playoff series the last two years.
Now, the fan favorite is ready to his most significant impact on a community.
“We’re very lucky in the situation with the platform that we have,” said Ingles, who became a dad of twins in summer 2016. His daughter, Milla, does not have Jacob’s condition.
Noticing the differences between the twins, Ingles and his wife kept their son’s situation mostly to themselves, outside of a few family and close friends in addition to some teammates and Jazz management. At times, Ingles admitted, emotions were draining him.
“There were days I didn’t want to go to practice, I didn’t want to play in a game,” he said. “I remember calling Renae a couple of times driving into games crying on the way to a game, (wondering) why am I leaving my son for a sporting event.”
“I knew what autism was, but I didn’t really know what it was in depth,” he said. “I knew people with autism. I realize the toll it takes on your family going through it when it’s your own child. The last three months have been for me, and obviously for Renae as well, the toughest we’ve ever had to deal with. I’ve been lucky I’ve had the Jazz’s support.”
Initially, Ingles said, he and his wife wavered on announcing their son’s situation. Since they did, the response has been overwhelming
In retrospect, they wouldn’t change a thing. And they know tough times are ahead.
“I think putting it out there, for us, was a bit of a coping mechanism to just know we could talk about it, we could be open about it. We’re not embarrassed at all. Renae said the other day she wishes she could write back to everyone individually.
“We didn’t do it for sympathy. We don’t need anyone to pat us on the back. There’s a lot of families out there that don’t have a platform, that don’t have a voice, that we get to have.”