Denton: Memorable Night For Magic Fan

By John Denton
February 2, 2011


ORLANDO – Jameer Nelson had just gotten to the rim for a nifty layup in traffic and before he turned to run back up the court he shot a glance and a wave over at Tamari Walker, who was sitting courtside. And for the first time all night, Walker took his hands off the autographed basketball given to him and waved back.

For one night at least, the 16-year-old Daytona Beach native was literally living out his dreams.

Tamari, who has battled cancerous tumors in his body for the better part of the past four years, had dreamed forever about getting the chance to meet his hero, Dwight Howard, and also several members of the Magic team that he watched so closely on television.

So when the cheerful teenager actually got to do just that, Tamari was nearly speechless that those he looked up to took time out before a recent game to wish him well.

Magic starting power forward Brandon Bass presented him with the blue and white basketball signed by all of the players. Jason Richardson promised that he would try and get a dunk for Tamari. Magic legend Nick Anderson presented Tamari with jersey No. 12 – Howard’s number – only it had WALKER stitched across the back.

And just when Tamari thought the night couldn’t get any better, he was wheeled onto the court where he got to high-five the Magic’s starting five during pregame introductions. And the best was saved for last when Walker got to slap palms with Howard, the Magic’s five-time all-star.

``This,’’ Tamari said, while shaking his head, ``is amazing.’’

Tamari, who was wearing a skull cap that read, ``Cancer Fears Me,’’ was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma in the sixth grade. The cancer is composed of fast-growing, highly malignant tumors in the soft tissue sarcomas in children. Tumors were first discovered in his neck four years ago and have since spread to his spine and brain.

He’s twice been in remission, but a reappearance of the tumors has Tamari back at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. A recent operation left Tamari partially paralyzed, making his wheelchair a necessity. But after much therapy, Tamari has able to walk short distances again with a walker.

Because of recent complications, there was some doubt as to whether Tamari would be able to actually attend last Sunday night’s game between the Magic and Cavaliers. But doctors ultimately gave him clearance, feeling the chance for Tamari to meet his heroes would do wonders for his spirits.

``This is just so wonderful and we’re so excited that he could come,’’ said Patsy Davis, Tamari’s grandmother, who was among a large group of family and church members in attendance. ``We were worried that he might not be able to make it. Our pastor and deacons were able to pick him up and help him get in the chair. It just makes him so happy to come down here and he’s been smiling all night.’’

Tamari had attended a Magic game years before, but that was at Amway Arena and not the magnificent Amway Center, where Tamari was amazed at the beauty of the state-of-the-art facility. And sitting courtside, as he did for Sunday’s game, was a much better viewpoint than he had the last time he watched the Magic play.

``The floor seats are a lot cooler than sitting up top,’’ he said with a laugh. ``It feels great getting to meet the players, too. I’m just so blessed to be here and have my family with me.’’

Several of Tamari’s family members let out screeching noises when Nelson, Orlando’s co-captain and standout point guard, walked over to greet the group before Sunday’s game. Tamari had a huge smile on his face as Nelson peeked his head between mother, Tammy Davis and grandmother, Patsy Davis. Nelson posed for a half-dozen pictures and there was a scramble to find a pen so that the Magic point guard could sign autographs for everyone in the family.

``This is what it’s all about, helping put a smile on people’s faces,’’ Nelson said. ``I just wanted to do what I could to help out.’’

According to Tammy Davis, Nelson and the Magic did wonders for Tamari and the Davis family. She got a kick out of just sitting back and seeing her son smile during the game for the first time in weeks. And when her son finally got to greet Howard, Tammy had tears of joy in her eyes.

``Tamari’s been so excited about this for a week or so, and he’ll be talking about it forever,’’ Tammy said. ``I just want to thank the Magic for a wonderful night. Tamari is a good boy, and the Magic have absolutely made his year. Everything they have done for our family has been so beautiful and we’ll never forget this.’’

John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com. Submit a question to John for his mailbag segment at AskJD@orlandomagic.com.