When I walked into Sixers shootaround on Tuesday, there was a four-year-old boy named Levi Payne from Benton Harbor, Michigan flexing his biceps and doing push-ups for Brett Brown.
Brown had just finished asking Levi how strong he was, and naturally, Levi figured showing off his muscles would do the trick. Brown got a big kick out of it.
So did Wilson Chandler, who invited Levi, along with his mother, Yasmine, and two sisters, out to the practice facility.
Chandler is from the same town as Levi and heard about his story through a friend.
On May 18, Yasmine took her son to the doctor after he was complaining of headaches.
Shortly thereafter, Levi was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor, DIPG, found in the part of the brain that controls your motor skills. (About 200 to 300 kids are diagnosed each year). Soon, Levi, who Yasmine says always has a basketball in his arms, won't be able to walk, to see, to hear, among other daily functioning activities.
He had radiation for six weeks (starting June 8) and gained 30 pounds, while the tumor shrunk in size. But once the radiation wears off, the tumor will go back and Levi has already had the maximum amount of radiation that a child his age can endure.
"They've given him 6 months, it's been since May and it's usually a 6- to 9-month wait..."
Jasmine has trouble finishing her sentence.
"He won't be in pain. It will just be natural. He won't know what's going on." Jasmine gets quiet as she thinks about saying goodbye to her only son.
Levi doesn't know there's anything wrong with him. Neither do his sisters, although the oldest, Lyric, keeps questioning why Levi is always at the doctor. Yasmine says she's trying to keep some sort of normalcy while trying to celebrate every bit of life Levi has left.
That's where Chandler comes in.
Chandler said he learned about Levi, shortly after his hamstring injury.
"It came at a crazy time. I had just hurt my hamstring before I heard the story, and I was kind of down," Chandler says. "Then, that whole story kind of put it into perspective. It kind of made me tear up a little bit, so I just wanted to reach out."
So, Chandler texted Yasmine and made sure that his coach was OK with having them at shootaround.
And when Levi got to shootaround he was very curious about Chandler's leg.
"He asked me about my leg, asked me why I had the ice on it. When I took the ice off, he was like, did that make you feel better?"
Chandler gets a little quieter as he reflects on Levi's concern about his leg.
"I should be asking him if he's alright."
Yasmine describes Levi as her "happy baby," and in the time that they spent together, Chandler had similar thoughts.
"He's happy, he's strong. When you got someone like that going through things, and still, to be able to be happy and strong and show no signs of weakness, it kind of put everything into perspective. When you're going through things, and you're living life, and you're actually healthy, you're alive."
Before leaving the facility, Levi, donning his new personalized jersey signed by all the Sixers, passed out wristbands that read #LeviStrong. Levi didn't know what they meant, but he made us all feel a little stronger that day.