15 Awesome Athletes Who Totally Made Little Kids' Lives Better
It's true that the average kid has no clue how good they "have it" until their youth is shrinking in the rearview mirror and a mustache is aggressively auditioning to take its formerly undervalued place.
But our lingering, bill-paying bitterness shouldn't get in the way of those moments when everything is right in a kid's life—whether the reason is a delicious pile of s'mores by a campfire or getting a high-five from their favorite athlete.
One of the benefits of being a grown-up is that most of us know how to separate true grievances from those circumstances that just exist...because they exist.
So, LeBron James blew past your outstretched, dap-starved fist on the way to the locker room? No big deal. He's got more important things on his mind. Hopefully you just didn't look like an idiot.
For a kid, those types of events can be transformative; for the bad and the good.
When an athlete manages to put a smile on a kid's face, regardless of whether the moment is spontaneous or planned, it makes them better people and the world just a little less hospitable for jerks.
These are 15 awesome athletes who totally made a little kid's life better.
Steve Smith Comforts Boy Traumatized by Free Agency
Wide receiver Steve Smith has been synonymous with the Carolina Panthers, so when the unthinkable happened and the team captain left the team that drafted him for the Baltimore Ravens, young fan Gavin was devastated.
Video of the kid's freak-out went viral and quickly became national sports news.
Smith proved he understands the value of loyalty, surprising Gavin on Good Morning America and likely cursing the rest of us with a future Ravens fan.
Andre Johnson Is a Real-Life Santa Claus
It's hard to imagine growing up in a world where Christmas isn't the most awesome time of year, so the fact that a significant number of kids actually live in that world is truly terrible.
Fortunately, people like Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson are doing their part to spread the Christmas cheer.
Johnson's Christmas shopping spree for impoverished children in the Houston area makes him a real-life Santa Claus.
Eli Manning Gives an MVP Performance for Sick Children
Eli Manning doesn't exactly exude the larger-than-life charisma of Joe Namath, or wear his emotions on his sleeve like Philip Rivers, but he has two Super Bowl rings...and in the end, all that really matters are the results.
So it shouldn't be surprising that that the low-key quarterback of the New York Giants followed suit when he raised $2.9 million for Mississippi's Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in 2011.
Usain Bolt Gladly Finishes Last
At a 2010 charity event sponsored by luxury watch-maker Hublot, Jamaican sprinter and six-time gold medal-winning Olympian Usain Bolt "raced" a group of kids who had the fortune of being selected for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Hublot donated $10,000 for every kid who crossed the finish line, raising $100,000 for Bolt's foundation. The event was all about raising money for a cause, rather than a bunch of children getting the best of Bolt with a head start.
But don't tell that to the YouTube commenters, who mostly hold a contrarian view—contrarian and wretched.
Lionel Messi Hugs Rather Than Piledrives Young Fan
Usually any story that begins with, "So, this guy jumped onto the pitch and tried to hug one of the biggest stars in the world," ends with words that include tackled and Tasers.
In this case, a young Lionel Messi fan got the thrill of a life when he rushed onto the field of an exhibition match that featured a "Battle of the Stars."
Messi embraced the boy and gave him a memory that will last a lifetime.
LeBron James and Chris Paul Pop in to a Boys and Girls Club
The youngest sports fans are also some of the most dedicated, so it's a shame that on those rare moments when they have a chance to say a few words to their favorite athlete, getting a sweaty wrist band haphazardly tossed in their direction is considered a victory.
So, imagine how awesome an experience it was when LeBron James and Chris Paul dropped in to the Boys & Girls Club in Washington, D.C., in 2012.
Not only did the kids have an opportunity to meet James and CP3, but they also got hands-on tips about improving their game as well as a photo preserving the memory.
Wild Forward Infects Kid with Serious Case of the Gigs
In December 2013, the Wild’s Charlie Coyle took a moment off from ignoring all the dummies that incessantly bang on the glass at hockey games to make the day of a little boy who will surely be one of his biggest fans forever.
In the moments after Coyle reciprocates the friendly wave, that little boy became the happiest kid on Earth. His priceless reaction caught the eye of many fans watching on TV and the video basically went viral in real time.
John Wall Does His Part to Brighten a Little Girl's Day
Recently, Wizards point guard John Wall helped make the wish of a young cancer patient named Miyah come true. Though it wasn’t Wall that Miyah was interested in, but rather singer Nicki Minaj.
Wall enlisted his army of followers on Twitter and Instagram to help get Minaj’s attention in hopes of scoring one of her patented pink wigs for her superfan. The effort was successful, with Minaj promising to deliver via a reply message on Instagram.
Samuel Eto’o Pays It Forward
In January, Chelsea footballer Samuel Eto’o met up with 10-year-old Nathan Thomas, who is battling a life-threatening liver condition. The meeting was arranged by the Make-A-Wish Foundation in the U.K.
Although Thomas was obviously thrilled to be meeting his hero, Eto’o seemed just as pleased to be meeting him. Said Eto’o via Instagram, “I still don’t know which one of us was happier to meet the other one...”
LeBron Meets LaBron; Adorableness Ensues
Earlier this year, Heat star LeBron James met a young leukemia patient who just happened to be named LaBron.
The encounter was arranged though the Make-a-Wish Foundation and the ear-to-ear grin affixed to LaBron's jubilant face is priceless.
Derrick Coleman Is Proof There's Hope for Mankind
In January, Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman, the NFL’s first deaf offensive player, responded to an adorable letter written by an adorable young girl, who is also hearing impaired, and he did it in the most adorable way possible.
Riley Kovalick and her twin sister were absolutely stunned when Coleman appeared to meet them. The whole heartwarming event was captured by the prying eye of ABC News cameras, and for that we thank them.
John Terry May Not Have a Cure, but He Made Life a Little Better
In December 2013, 14-year-old Dublin boy Oran Tully, who suffers from a bowel condition, was given the opportunity to meet his hero through a segment on Sky Sports called “My Special Day.”
Oran is a soccer fanatic and a lifelong fan of Chelsea FC of the Premier League. That being the case, who else would he meet but Chelsea captain John Terry.
Kid Beats Rare Disease, Fights Favorite Hockey Player
Chalk it up as an outright victory: Earlier this year, eight-year-old Capitals fan Braden Nienaber, who was diagnosed with Langerhans cell histiocytosis, was given a clean bill of health as well as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
He not only took part in a ceremonial puck drop in a game between the Capitals and Sabres, but spent a day with his favorite team.
Celtics Give Boy Going Blind Courtside Experience
Twelve-year-old Louis Corbett of New Zealand suffers from a degenerative eye disease that is rapidly stealing his vision. But despite the condition, the Celtics made sure that he had the kind of unique experience that will always be a crystal-clear memory.
As the guest of honor at a game earlier this month, Corbett and his family were treated to courtside seats, a standing ovation and an opportunity to spend time with his favorite players.
Kid's OKC Thunder Wish Comes True
It's a damn shame that kids that are amazing regardless of what the future holds have to be facing truly horrible circumstances in order to meet the men and women they idolize and that bring them joy.
But, that's exactly what nine-year-old Ne'Vaeh Littleton is going through; the little guy was diagnosed with an incurable form of brain cancer.
However, late last year his favorite team, the Thunder, hosted Littleton and his family and he was able to meet his hero Kevin Durant and hang out with the team and coaches.