It was a dream come true for 15-year-old Joseph Tagaban when he met his basketball hero, Klay Thompson, last week, but an unexpected gift from his idol left him in awe.
For a segment of ESPN’s “My Wish” series that aired Wednesday, Thompson was able to spend a day with Tagaban, a young basketball standout who learned in December 2020 that he had a rare form of cancer known as acute myeloid leukemia.
After Tagaban endured nine months of treatment in Seattle, it was his wish to meet the newly crowned NBA champion.
“Klay’s form, I mean, it’s absolutely so clean,” Tagaban told ESPN during the segment. “It’s really satisfying just watching his game, and I just overall appreciate it. And as a player, I’ve seen clips of him … he’s super humble.”
In partnership with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, “My Wish” made it happen, and Tagaban was able to spend time with Thompson at his offseason gym Friday.
It was there that Thompson gifted Tagaban with an autographed photo of Kobe Bryant, tucked away into a black folder from the late legend’s 2007 Nike Kobe Skills Academy. Thompson attended as a high school camper, while his future teammate, Steph Curry, a sophomore at Davidson, was a college camper.
“He’s the greatest,” Thompson said. “We miss him.”
As Thompson handed over the photo he received when he was just a teen himself, Tagaban was in shock.
“For real?” Tagaban asked Thompson, clearly in awe at the once-in-a-lifetime gift.
“Yeah, man, that’s yours,” Thompson responded.
It was a day to remember for Tagaban, who received shooting tips from Thompson on the court, went for a spin in the Golden State star’s classic car and even got ice cream with his hoops hero.
And once their fun had come to an end, Thompson told The Mercury News why he was willing to part with his prized Bryant possession.
"I just know he’s going through a hard time and I know he’ll cherish that photo,” Thompson said. “Just such a special photo of mine, and I decided to hook him up. He’s a great young man. He deserves it.”
The young basketball fan certainly will cherish his time spent with Thompson as well, and he’ll even have a physical reminder thanks to a very special gift given to him by one of Bryant’s biggest fans.