(ABC)–Washington Wizards point guard John Wall didn’t sound or look like someone who’d just scored his team’s final 10 points in Monday night’s double overtime win against the Boston Celtics.
Instead, he broke down during a post-game television interview and was somber in the locker room on the day he learned that Damiyah Telemaque-Nelson, a 6-year-old cancer patient he befriended, had died.
“This game was really meant for her. It would’ve been an even tougher day to lose it,” said Wall, who received the news via text message Monday morning and dedicated the game to his friend. “I just went into a mode where I didn’t want to lose this game.”
His inspired 26-point, 17-assist effort helped the Wizards rally for a double-overtime 133-132 win over the Boston Celtics.
“It’s just tough to see a little kid who fights so hard against cancer and can’t beat it,” Wall said after the game.
“You’re never like this. She really touched your heart, didn’t she?” asked CSN Washington reporter Chris Miller.
Wall, unable to respond, only shook his head “yes” as he began sobbing.
“Yeah, it was a tough day for him,” coach Randy Wittman said of Wall. “I thought he handled it well, but he was hurting at the end.”
Wall met Telemaque-Nelson last March, five months after she was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma.
Wall had been writing the little girl’s name on his shoes all season and had communicated with her as recently as two weeks ago via FaceTime, the team said. He had even started a social media campaign to help her meet rapper Nicki Minaj.
A moment of silence for Telemaque-Nelson was held before Monday night’s game and Wall had played with “RIP Miyah” written on his sneakers.