HomeSportsNBAJayson Tatum presents 51-point game ball to 10-year-old with rare form of cancer

Jayson Tatum presents 51-point game ball to 10-year-old with rare form of cancer

by Daniel Morrison
Jayson Tatum
Adam Glanzman / Stringer PhotoG/Getty

During the Boston Celtics’ game seven win over the Philadelphia 76ers, NBA superstar Jayson Tatum put on a show. He scored 51 points in what ended up being an easy win for the Celtics. Naturally, Tatum was deserving of the game ball.

After the game, Tatum decided that he didn’t need the game ball. So, he decided to give it to Xavier Goncalves, a 10-year-old fan. According to the Boston Globe, Goncalves has a cancerous tumor in his eye. For it, he’s undergone three surgeries to try and remove it, 24 rounds of chemotherapy, and months of radiation treatment. Jayson Tatum had the opportunity to meet him and the two have become close, texting, going to games, and even visiting him at home.

So, it only made sense for Tatum to bring him in on the locker room celebration and give him the game ball from his 51-point performance.

“I could tell he didn’t really know what to do,” Tatum said. “I was like, ‘Man, you’re in the Garden with me. You can go anywhere you want. Come on in.’”

The official diagnosis for Xavier is rhabdomyosarcoma, a form of soft-tissue cancer. His tumor is under his eyelid and actually behind the eye itself, going all the way into his nasal cavity. Treatment at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for chemotherapy and Massachusetts General Hospital has been long and difficult.

It was a staff member at Dana-Farber who reached out to the Celtics to tell them about Xavier, a huge Jayson Tatum fan. The Celtics invited Xavier to a game in early April where he met Tatum and was gifted a pair of shoes.

“You’ve got to wear these tonight to give me some good luck,” Tatum said. Of course, the shoes did work and the Celtics won.

Jayson Tatum built a connection with the young fan

Instead of quickly moving on with his life as a star athlete, Jayson Tatum felt a connection to the young fan. He even felt like the two had similar personalities. Tatum also has a young son himself, making him wonder about what it would be like to go through what the Goncalves family is dealing with.

“He was cool, he was quiet,” Tatum said. “I just felt a connection.”

So, Tatum reached out. He wanted to visit Xavier under different circumstances. He visited the family’s apartment. There the two asked each other questions and became close. When Tatum asked him if he gets nervous before treatments, he was shocked by Xavier’s answer.

“And he just said, ‘Nah, because I know it’s going to help me. I know I have to do this.’ And his mom and everybody around him encourage him. I thought that was cool, because I’m like, ‘[Expletive], I get nervous before games going out in front of these people, and for you to be 10 years old and show that courage is impactful.’”

Since then, the two have remained close and Jayson Tatum invited him into the locker room for game seven. According to his mother, it was the best day of his life.

Xavier is waiting on the results of recent scans. He and his family are hoping for good results that would allow him to move back home.