Ebony is worth meeting, LeBron

Ebony Nettles-Bey

LeBron, meet Ebony.

She's a lot like you, actually.

She wears a headband (even though she has no hair -- or eyebrows). She's a basketball freak. A 16-year-old junior, she's got a sweet handle and plays killer zone defense.

Oh, one thing that's different: She's trying like hell not to die of cancer.

That's not going to be easy. The majority of people who have the kind of Stage 4 soft-tissue sarcoma Ebony Nettles-Bey has don't live through it.

Ebony has two goals.

One, like you did at her age, she wants to play pro. That's not going to be easy, either. Sometimes she goes to her Verona (Wis.) High School girls' basketball games straight from the hospital. She barely gets the IVs out and she's suiting up. And then she checks right back into the hospital afterward.

Two is to meet ... you. "Oh my God," she says. "I'd probably start crying. That would just about be everything I ever wanted. I mean, there's your life right there. That's what you live for."

She's wanted to meet you forever, long before she was sick. Maybe that's why, when Ebony's teammates found out about her diagnosis, they started a Twitter campaign. It got hot. Now, thousands of tweets with the hashtag #LeBronMeetEbony have gone out. It even trended for a while.

Like you, she's lived an inner-city life that hasn't always been easy. Her dad was shot 16 times and died when she was just 5. Like you, she's bounced around, living sometimes with her mom, sometimes with her godmother, sometimes with her godfather.

Like you, she's kind of a Beethoven at ball. Last year, as a sophomore at Madison West High, she was All Conference. She averaged almost 17 points a game and was such a complete player that she verbally committed to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as a sophomore, according to her godfather, Peter Johannes.

Like you, she's been, well, controversial.

When you left Cleveland for Miami, people weren't happy. When Ebony left Madison West for Verona to get a more stable living situation, "a whole lot of people in Madison weren't happy," says her new coach, Angie Murphy. "She immediately took us from a 'good' team to a contender for the state title. She's like LeBron. You want the ball in her hands."

Like you did, she plays AAU ball, but during one AAU game in September, she noticed she couldn't get deep breaths. Doctors found a tumor the size of a softball under her rib cage. It was so big, it collapsed her lung. The cancer spread to her lymph nodes. Doctors told her mom, Katrina, that Ebony might not last the year.

Remember all those times you've played through back injuries, ankles, toes? Well, what Ebony has played through makes that all that look like chapped lips. She's played through surgeries. She's played through radiation. She's played through chemo. "She's got a five-day chemo hospital visit coming up [next week]," says Johannes. "And I know what she'll do. She'll check into the hospital Monday. She'll have chemo Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Leave the hospital Thursday. Go play the game. Check back in Thursday night, and then have chemo Friday morning."

How does a person play high school hoops through the hell of chemo?

"You just do it," Ebony says. "And you accept what comes afterward."

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