Ebony Nettles-Bey is a standout basketball player at her Wisconsin high school, and not just because she’s got a fierce set of skills.
The 16-year-old was among the top players in her division during her sophomore year, before she started having trouble breathing. When she went to see a doctor, the results were devastating. Nettles-Bey was diagnosed with Stage 4 rhabdomyosarcoma, a form of cancer that attacks the body’s connective tissue.
Basketball kept Ebony positive as she fought back against the disease. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, she continued to play in 15 games for the Verona Wildcats during her junior year, helping the team to a 20-3 season. She played some nights after getting chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
Her courage and perseverance is perhaps why so many people joined a social media campaign earlier this year to help Ebony meet her hero, Miami Heat star LeBron James. Thousands of people who heard Ebony’s story tweeted #lebronmeetebony, a hashtag picked up and promoted by several sports columnists.
She didn’t know it Saturday night, but the campaign was what brought her to the Milwaukee Bucks game against the Miami Heat. Ebony was invited to the game by the Bucks organization, but she thought she was just going to watch.
Instead, she was escorted back to the Heat’s locker room where she finally got to meet her basketball hero face-to-face. James invited Ebody out to the court to warm up with the team.
After the game, both James and Ebody seemed to be mutually amazed by each other. “I was speechless. It was pretty exciting,” Ebony told the Wisconsin State Journal. “I couldn’t say anything. I just started crying tears of joy. … It meant everything to me.”
James called Ebody “the stronger one out of us two.”
“I’m glad that I’m in a position to fulfill someone’s dream,” he said in an on camera interview after the game. “It’s really, really cool.”
He wrote on his personal Instagram account: “Ebony your strength, courage and energy is out of this world and u will win and defeat this. I just know it! Love you forever and I got your back and front! #EbonyMetLeBron #CancerWho #EbonyEqualsStrong #StriveForGreatness”
Photo via Keith Allison/Flickr (CC By-SA 2.0)