April 16, 2010 — -- Four-year-old Ezra Frech was born with a rare condition that caused his left arm and leg to form improperly, which hasn't stopped the boy from doggedly doing what he loves most, playing basketball.
But the boy who has inspired so many recently got the surprise of his life when he met his favorite player, L.A. Lakers' Pau Gasol.
With a prosthetic leg, Ezra learned early on how being different is no big deal.
"It was a limb issue," Ezra's mom, Bahar Soomekh, said of his condition. "When the chromosomes divided, one side, his left side, got misinformation so it didn't form like the right side."
There was also something else special about Ezra. He was happy as a baby, engaged in everything, a possible sign of what was to come.
He had surgery at age 3 to remove the leg that wasn't growing properly and had it replaced with a prosthetic leg.
"That day that he walked into our doors, he changed our lives," Hanger Prosthetics therapist Ryan Russell said. "There's just something about him. ... He comes in here, he lights the place up."
The new leg changed things for Ezra.
"I can't skip very well, but I can skip a different way," he said.
But being different isn't always easy.
"Sometimes, he has those days where he's like, 'I don't want to be different,'" Soomekh said. "He would sob to me and say, 'Tell God to give me another leg. Can you ask him if he has another leg like other kids?' ... He has had those moments."
Other times, whenever a basketball in his hands, it's impossible to slow him down.
"Every spare minute he has its dedicated to basketball," Ezra's dad, Clayton Frech, said. "Its fascinating."
Ezra said, "I just play over and over and over until its dinner time."
He plays inside, outside, alone, at school and with strangers. His favorite team? The L.A. Lakers.
Gasol Is His Favorite Player
"He doesn't watch cartoons," his mother said. "He watches Lakers games over and over again."
His favorite player is Gasol, whom he watches with near obsession.
"He just recently got a haircut because Pau Gasol got a haircut," Soomekh said. "He would wake up in the morning and come into my bathroom and grab my eyeliner and ask me to give him a beard like Pau Gasol."
For all his adoration, Ezra had never met Gasol, until a few days ago.
Before a recent game, backstage at the Staples Center where the Lakers play, Ezra got a big surprise when Gasol, at 7-feet tall, walked through the door. After a few hugs, autographs and pictures, Ezra was floating.
"It was so exciting. It was surprising," Ezra said. "I was so happy I met him and I was like, 'Oh, my God.'"
Gasol said it was a gift to him as well.
"To be able to share a couple of minutes with a kid full of joy, full of happiness in his situation ... it just makes you feel incredibly blessed," Gasol said.
Leaving such an impression is nothing new for Ezra.
"Virtually every person he comes across," his mother said, "he teaches them about acceptance and appreciation of a diverse world."