The Kentucky Derby was made all the more special for a seven-year-old boy with leukemia, as former Wildcats star Nerlens Noel escorted him to the event.
On Saturday, before Orb captivated the nation with a late break for the win at Churchill Downs, Noel took to the red carpet with a special little fan, giving us one of the best images from a memorable Derby.
Nerlens Noel @NerlensNoel3
Red Carpet with my man @Kickinit4Kelly !! http://t.co/e1DmtusFsf2013-5-5 00:43:44
The young man is Kelly Melton, and according to Yahoo! Sports, he was diagnosed with leukemia this past November.
Back in April, WYMT TV reported on the outpouring of support coming from Kentucky sports programs for the boy, who has had to deal with chemotherapy since late last year.
During his time at UK Children's Hospital he has received visits from (Mark) Stoops, former UK football player Martavious Neloms, current UK football player Christian Coleman and former UK basketball player Nerlens Noel.
The time spent has nurtured quite the relationship between the 6'11" basketball star, who is headed to the NBA, and the youngster facing a tremendous battle.
Below is a video that serves to prove just how much Melton has meant to Noel, who now sees him as a little brother:
A great story gets better with the image the Lexington Herald News presented on its Facebook page; it shows Noel helping his buddy over a puddle so he wouldn't ruin that dapper suit:
And so a day filled with thoroughbred debate, large hats and mint juleps had its best moment well away from the track.
Noel leaves Kentucky and embarks on a promising NBA career. As Bob Finnan of The Morning Journal notes, the ACL injury he suffered back in February will hardly deter his chances of being the top pick at the upcoming NBA draft.
But before the huge contract, fancy cars and nationally televised games, Noel is garnering attention for all the right reasons. He took a young boy out to the grandest party in all of sports this weekend, and we were fortunate enough to share in the beautiful moment.
Hit me up on Twitter: Follow @gabezal