VIDEO: The Fast Break: Dec. 26th
No. 1: Curry makes fan, not foes, cry — You can be impressed with Golden State’s Steph Curry all over again because he was named the Associated Press 2015 Male Athlete of the Year, joining LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird as the only basketball players to win that award in its 85 years. Or you can admire him, instead, for the consideration he demonstrated for a single fan, at the end of a long road trip, on the Warriors’ only night of defeat so far this season. Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal-Times was on hand to chronicle a memorable evening and special moment from earlier this month between Curry and a fan of his dating back to his Davidson days, and the tale lent itself to a Christmastime telling:
When the unbeaten Warriors rolled into Milwaukee on Dec. 12 for their only appearance against the Milwaukee Bucks, Barry Hankel wanted to give his wife a special present — tickets to the game and perhaps the opportunity to meet her favorite player.
Barry sought to bring some joy to his wife, who has been living a nightmare for almost two years. In March of 2014, while the Hankels were residing in Green Bay, Becky learned she had a myofibroblastic tumor, a rare cancer that occurs mainly in the soft tissue and internal body organs.
“The doctor who gave me the results was taken aback,’’ said Becky, a 2001 graduate of Union Grove High School whose maiden name is Thom. “He had never heard about it. It’s not very common.’’
The cancer settled in Becky’s lower left leg. She underwent radiation treatment followed by surgery in June of 2014 at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
An infection arose and lingered, eventually creeping into a bone and necessitating another trip to the Mayo Clinic, where she underwent three more surgeries.
Becky’s problems didn’t stop there. Three months ago in Janesville, she broke her leg while waiting in her car for her two children — Lexie, 8, and Liam, 5 — to get out of school.
“And all of a sudden, I heard a pop,’’ Becky recalled. “I felt immediate pain.”
That meant yet another trip to the Mayo Clinic for her fifth operation. This time, doctors determined Becky needed to have her leg amputated below the knee.
The surgery was deemed successful and Becky said she is cancer free. While she is using a wheelchair, a prosthetic is on the way. Finally, there is light at the end of a seemingly endless tunnel for the Hankels.
Considering the physical and mental hardships his wife had to endure and the strain his family has been under, Barry thought attending the Bucks-Warriors game would be therapeutic.
And it was. In the days leading up to the game, Becky excitedly went online and purchased Curry jerseys for the entire family.
The game was thrilling and memorable as well. Before a raucous capacity crowd of 18,717 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, the Bucks — Becky’s favorite team — snapped the Warriors’ winning streak. Curry, Becky’s favorite player, finished with 28 points.
Becky’s memorable night didn’t end there. Raymond Ridder, the Warriors vice president of communications, arranged for Becky and her family to have a private meeting with Curry, just outside the Warriors’ locker room.
“Becky was ecstatic,’’ Barry said. “She’s wanted to meet him forever. When he came out of the locker room, Becky got up out of her wheelchair and said to him, ‘Can I give you a hug?’ And he said, ‘Of course.’ ”
Becky agreed it was an unforgettable occasion, saying she’s still having difficulty comprehending that she got to meet Curry.
“I remember seeing people who would meet a celebrity, like their favorite singer or player, and they’d start to cry,’’ Becky said. “And I would say to myself, ‘Why would they do that?’ But when he came out of the locker room, this emotion came over and I said ‘Oh, my God’ and cried.”