When Michigan State won the Big Ten Championship this year in Indianapolis, center Adriean Payne took a special guest up the ladder with him to cut down the nets - 8-year-old Lacey Holsworth. While that 10-foot trip up the ladder allowed Lacey the opportunity to look down upon the world from new-found heights, she now stands watch over the entire world after her family reported her death from cancer Wednesday morning.
Lacey first met Payne two years ago from her hospital bed in Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital during a Michigan State team visit. It was at that time that Payne learned Lacey suffered from neuroblastoma, a type of cancer in which immature neuroblast cells, near the spine, develop into cancer cells instead of mature, adult cells.
Lacey did not let her battle with cancer put a damper upon her Michigan State basketball fandom, however, befriending Adriean Payne almost immediately. ''She loved unconditionally and without hesitation, spreading her smile and love throughout the world," stated Lacey's father.
Princess Lacey has achieved the ultimate victory. She now dances among angels.... The world is a… http://t.co/SAXeJ4D4zH
— Princess Lacey (@adorablelacey) April 9, 2014
Last spring, Dick Vitale invited both Lacey and Payne to his annual Dick Vitale Gala to fight cancer in Sarasota, Florida. From there, Lacey's last year on earth was quite a whirlwind, being featured on such shows as "The Today Show" and "Good Morning America." Lacey also served as Payne's escort on his Senior Night (even though Payne had to carry Lacey to the floor due to the pain she was suffering from) and was with the MSU center during the college slam-dunk contest preceding the 2014 National Championship game.
“They communicate and hang out like a brother and sister. It’s a unique and special bond,” Matt Holsworth commented.
While all of Payne's actions during his senior year at Michigan State display the intense bond he held with Lacey, perhaps nothing speaks bigger about their relationship than the exchange the two had the day of Lacey's first treatment following news her cancer had returned:
“Laaaccceeey,” [Lacey's mother] Heather whispered. “Adreian is here to see you. Laaaccceey, Adreian’s here.”
After a few moments, Lacey rolled onto her back and opened her eyes. Sure enough, standing next to her bed was Payne, his 6’10” frame nearly stretching to the ceiling as he clutched the stuffed zebra he’d brought as a gift.
Grinning, Lacey extended her arms as Payne bent down to embrace the girl he calls his “little sis.”
“Superman!” she said. “You’re here.”
Unfortunately for Lacey, even Superman had his limitations. However, there is still one way in which Payne feels that he can still keep fighting for Lacey - through basketball: ''The only thing you can do is play basketball. You can't be there with them. Just knowing that when I play well, it makes her happy. It feels like I'm doing something, in a way, to make her feel better.''
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