It was a moment Wizards fans will never forget -- John Wall sobbing through his postgame interview on the day he lost his "buddy" Miyah Telemaque-Nelson to pediatric cancer.
He formed a special bond with the 5-year-old Wizards fan as she was battling Burkitt's lymphoma, an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The All-Star point guard kept in touch with Miyah as she fought the disease, even arranging for her to meet her favorite artist, Nicki Minaj. He also checked in with her via FaceTime during her long hospitalizations at Children's National Medical Center.
Her death devastated Wall, who lost his own father to cancer at only 9 years old, but hasn't lessened his investment in her family and keeping her memory alive.
“When you care for somebody and the bond just hits, you can’t really control it,” he said in a lengthy interview with Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post. “I didn’t want it to be like ‘All right, she’s gone, I don’t want to deal with this family [anymore],’ because it was bigger than that. … I wanted to still be a part of that family.”
And he showed that commitment immediately when he spoke at Miyah's funeral -- something he hadn't done when his father passed.
The little girl's mother, Kadisha Telemaque, shied away from the media attention Wall attracted, but remembers her daughter bringing out the childlike side of her NBA superstar friend. "[Wall] wasn't the 25-year-old that he is; he was a kid when he was with her," she said. "I don’t want anything to turn it from what it was, because he is just my daughter’s buddy, and a man that gave her hope with everything he did for her."
“It was heartfelt, to know that someone so little impacted someone so big.”
Before Miyah's death last year, she had hoped to walk in the Light The Night Walk to benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, but relapsed for the final time before the event. Now Wall is sponsoring a team of her friends and family in the 2015 Light The Night Walk on Saturday October 17.
He promotes "Miyah's Troupe" almost daily on social media, encouraging his fans to donate money toward lymphoma research and join the group assembled to walk in place of the little girl.
Wall won't be able to attend because he has a game in Milwaukee that same night, but made a five-figure gift toward non-Hodgkin lymphoma research instead.
His friendship with Miyah "didn’t just shine a light on her; it shined a light on her diagnosis that a lot of people didn’t know of,” Telemaque said. “It’s not just promoting a buddy anymore; he’s taking it a step further to now helping other people.”
You can help, too, by volunteering to walk or donating money through the "Miyah's Troupe" page.