When NBA analyst Kevin O’Connor shared that his father was recently diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, the basketball community responded with an outpouring of support.
One particularly touching message came from Celtics guard Marcus Smart, who gave Paul O’Connor a signed jersey Friday night at Game 3 of the Celtics-Bucks series.
“Paul, your son is an incredible journalist who I have known since I was drafted by the Celtics,” Smart wrote on Instagram. “Unfortunately I know all too well what you and your family are going through but I urge you guys to continue to stay positive and enjoy life.”
Smart lost his mother, Camellia, to bone marrow cancer in September 2018. He encouraged Paul to “keep kicking cancer’s ass,” and he reminded everyone to tell their family and friends they love them.
“The city of Boston is fighting right along side of you!!” Smart wrote.
O’Connor, who covers the NBA for The Ringer and grew up going to Celtics games with his dad, thanked Smart in a heartfelt comment. He said he and his parents are determined to fight the disease together, and he also shared a note from Paul to Smart.
“I have always loved the way you play with heart and determination,” O’Connor relayed for his dad. “I know all about your story. Your mom was lucky to have a great son who inspires so many people with his play on the court and work off the court. Thank you!”
In a piece that detailed how he and his dad bonded over basketball, O’Connor said doctors believe Paul only has weeks or months to live. He’s focused on treasuring the remaining days they have as father and son, and he’s extremely grateful that Smart offered such an uplifting message.
“Cancer is killing the man who provided for our family, the friend who fostered my love for basketball, the dad who pushed me to dream big,” O’Connor wrote.
He thanked his dad for teaching him to be mindful and said he’s trying to embody that same essence in the coming weeks. They can’t control what’s happened, but they can control what comes next.
“Cancer changes everything, but in some ways, it changes nothing,” O’Connor wrote. ” … The road ahead will not be easy, but family still has each other. Cancer can take his life, but it can’t take our love.”