Last summer, ESPN created a "My Wish" feature for their SportsCenter broadcasts that showcase individual athletes giving back to the community through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Stars ranging from Tedy Bruschi to Kobe Bryant, and Wayne Gretzky to Derek Jeter gave their time, and often a lot more, to brighten a child’s day. These children often face the fears of dealing with a terminal disease or live in constant pain from chronic illnesses and deformities.
While ESPN gave these children a voice through the ten part series shown last July, numerous other professional athletes often give of their time, fortunes, and hearts to provide a "wish come true" to countless children who deal with the same issues. Too often, however, these stories are ignored.
Last night, Chris Paul, the phenom point guard for the New Orleans Hornets, honored one of these children with a simple gesture. He wrote the name of an eight year-old boy on his shoes.
There is a significant story to be shared in this. Brian, a young boy suffering from leukemia, had been granted a wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation to see his hometown Hornets play the San Antonio Spurs this past Monday night. He would watch the game, meet CP3 and have his mind taken off the horrible disease plaguing his body.
Unfortunately, it was not to be. That Monday morning, little Brian came down with an intense fever, was hospitalized, and passed away that evening, as the Hornets put away the Spurs to go ahead in the series 2-0. When the Hornets organization heard the news, owner George Shinn offered to pay for funeral expenses, but the boy’s family declined.
To honor the memory of Brian, Paul wrote the name Brian on his shoes. A small gesture indeed, but certainly one that defies the mantra of athletes in sports these days. Too often we hear of athletes being arrested for drug and weapon charges, of athletes beating their spouses, of athletes refusing to play on a team because they want to be superstars.
Chris Paul is a young budding superstar in the NBA. One can only hope that his character is a sign of a bright future for athletes acting positively in community.
Brian said he knew he was going to heaven, and wanted to meet Jesus in his Chris Paul jersey. The boy was buried this week wearing the name of his hero.
Chris Paul wore the name of one of his heroes last night.
“I was speechless,” Paul said before Game 3 Thursday night. “Even now, it’s something that words can’t describe. This is probably one of the most humbling experiences of my life."