Warning: this post contains explicit language.
Sometimes it is just so much bigger than sports. Sometimes we take the winning, the losing, and the competition so seriously that we forget that there is so much more to it. The last few months I’ve looked at sports from a variety of perspectives, trying to understand what they mean to those of us that play them or follow them.
Tonight I thought I watched the Wizards come from behind against Celtics in double OT behind 10 straight points from All Star point guard John Wall, until I saw his post game interview. Tonight I watched something bigger.
This morning, Monday, December 8th John Wall lost a friend in 6-year old Miyah Telemaque-Nelson when passed away after a one-year battle with Burkitt’s Lymphoma. Wall met Miyah last March after learning via social media of her wish to meet Niki Minaj and get one of the artist’s signature pink wigs. With the NBA Star’s help her wish was granted. Miyah and Wall filmed a short video directed at Minaj and posted it to Instagram.
@NickiMinaj #HelpMiyahMeetNicki #PinkWig4Miyah Fans I need your help to get my buddy Miyah's wish granted. She's a 5 year old battling cancer and her wish is to meet @NickiMinaj and get one of her pink wigs! I need your help, comment on this photo "@NickiMinaj #HelpMiyahMeetNicki #PinkWig4Miyah"! Let's get Miyah's one of Nicki's pink wigs!
Minaj responded the very next day. A few weeks later she met Miyah in New York, where the two hung out and took some awesome photos.
If it had ended last March it would have been an awesome story. Except it didn’t. Over the last 8 months Wall and Miyah remained in contact, FaceTiming as recently as two weeks ago.
After spearheading the Wizards comeback, Wall, the man of the hour and the Wizard’s unquestioned team leader, was the obvious candidate for the post game interview, and he did not disappoint.
What happened next was one of the most genuinely beautiful moments I have ever seen in sports.
CSN reporter Chris Miller put the mic up to Wall and gave him the perfect lead in: “Walk me through your emotions right now”. Wall started slowly: he dedicated the win to Miyah, and added it was an emotional night for him. Pretty straightforward interview stuff that would have sufficiently wrapped up a touching story — only Wall wasn’t done.
He started to find his words and really speak, and as he did palpable emotion crept into his voice and onto his face; this was real. Wall trailed off. Miller noted Wall’s pensive pre game demeanor and asked almost rhetorically: “She really touched your heart didn’t she?”. Wall did not respond. He managed to muster a shrug and a half nod before he slumped over and began crying.
In a world in which athletes have become hyper aware about brand management and multimillion dollar shoe deals, helping a sick girl’s wish come true is some great pub. So is keeping in touch with her, and dedicating a game to her memory. However, what happened during that interview was as real, and as raw, as it get. Fuck the shoes: out of sight of the cameras, reporters, and agents, John Wall and Miyah Telemaque-Nelson formed a friendship that meant as much to the point guard as it did to the vivacious little girl.
Check out the video for yourself: