Seventeen-year-old Corey Groves was back at Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga Thursday undergoing harsh chemotherapy treatment for his rare and aggressive cancer — but was still on cloud nine after getting his dying wish of meeting his basketball idol, LeBron James.
“It was a dream come true,” said the Brampton teen, who had just returned from L.A. earlier in the week.
“It felt fictional, so I was little bit surprised it was happening.”
Groves said the two locked eyes as soon as he stepped on the court at Staples Arena on Christmas day, when LeBron’s L.A. Lakers were taking on the L.A. Clippers.
“We joked about his height,” said Groves, who added the interaction only lasted about a minute.
“I was like, ‘I’m surprised I’m almost as big as you are’ and he’s like, ‘I’ll probably be a little bigger on the court.'”
Groves said he “eats, sleeps, and breathes basketball.”
In May, the teen was diagnosed with stage four sarcoma cancer and only given less than a year to live — so he set out to accomplish his mission of meeting James and shaking his hand.
For about three months they tried to get a hold of the Lakers and LeBron through different means, including the Children’s Wish Foundation, but never heard back.
The teen also created an Instagram page called “Corey’s Wish” that quickly started racking up thousands of followers.
Word of Groves’ mission began to spread.
But it was only when Raptors superfan Nav Bhatia stepped in and decided to help that Groves’ wish finally gained flight.
Bhatia said he met the teen and told him that he would do all he could to make his dream come true.
The superfan, who is also a team ambassador, said he then touched base with LeBron’s agent while he was in Toronto and made the request for Groves to meet the Lakers’ forward.
“I’m just blessed to be in a position where I could contribute this little thing, which anybody could do it if they could do it,” said Bhatia.
Children’s Wish Foundation sent Groves and his mother on a week-long trip to Los Angeles right before Christmas, including going to see Universal Studios.
But it wasn’t until Christmas Eve that the mother-son duo found out they were actually going to meet the basketball legend and attend the Lakers’ game.
“I would have to say another amazing part was just seeing the smile on his face that I brought upon him,” said Groves about his interaction with James.
Groves added he got to meet the other members of the team as well before tip-off.
The Lakers ended up losing to the Clippers, but that didn’t put much of a damper on Groves’ experience.
“I feel happy. I know it’s simple, but it really made me happy. There’s no words to describe how I feel.”
“I hope this kid Corey, who’s an incredibly strong guy, this inspires him much more now to fight what he is fighting after meeting his hero,” said Bhatia.
Groves said his health is improving a little bit and he’s on a new treatment as well, but he’s also preparing for the worst.
“Things are looking optimistic, but I also have to stay realistic and have that mindset.”
Now, with his dying wish accomplished, Groves said he wants to spend the rest of his days trying to help others with aggressive cancers meet their idols.
“It’s very hard to be in my position,” said Groves.
“Some days you may not feel good, some days you might feel sad — so something like meeting a celebrity or whatnot for like five minutes of their time or maybe even something like 60 seconds and it could mean the world to someone.”