Many athletes grow up idolizing the pros, who they see on TV and who they read about on ESPN. Young basketball players look up to LeBron James and Michael Jordan, hoping one day they can be just like them. It’s a constant cycle of inspiration, but one 6’ 10”, 23-year-old basketball player started looking down and found his inspiration.
Adreian Payne of the Michigan State Spartans basketball team gained a new friend named Lacey Holsworth about two years ago. Lacey was just a little 8-year-old girl when she passed away after battling neuroblastoma, a fetal-nerve cell cancer, since 2011. The two created a special bond when they first met, while Lacey was receiving treatment at the hospital.
After the friendship took off, Payne introduced Princess Lacey to his fellow Spartans and the fascination and inspiration ignited the rest of Michigan State, and now the nation.
“They communicate and hang out like a brother and sister,” Lacey’s dad Matt Holsworth, said to CBS Detroit. “It’s a unique and special bond.”
Although little Lacey was fighting a big battle, she always kept a smile on her face, and showed the players a true passion for life. She fought until she couldn’t anymore, and Princess Lacey passed away last week.
“She said she first liked me because of my smile, but it’s her smile that made America fall in love with her. I know she’s smiling and dancing in heaven right now. My princess is now an angel,” Payne said in a statement.
Before her death, Lacey was involved in special events that most of us will never be a part of. Since the start of her friendship with Payne, he invited her to several Michigan State basketball games and she attended. She honored Payne with her presence at the Spartans’ senior night where he carried her around Michigan State’s basketball court.
“She was tired that day,” Payne told The Associated Press. “I just figured I’d pick her up instead of having her walk.”
Lacey even helped cut down the net after Michigan State won the Big Ten tournament and sported a new championship hat over her luscious blond wig; the same hat the rest of the Spartans got. Princess Lacey even traveled with Payne down to Dallas to attend the College Slam Dunk Championship during the Final Four.
After her death, head coach of the Michigan State basketball team Tom Izzo, attended the school’s candle light vigil dedicated to Lacey, and gave a heartwarming and emotional speech. To say the least, my eyes filled with tears as I tried to hold them back. You could tell how proud Izzo was of the Spartan community and to have known Lacey.
“Even though he knew this was inevitable, it’s hard,” Izzo said of Payne during his speech. “But he took it with the class and dignity that she taught him. I told him, ‘Not everybody gets to touch somebody’s life like you have. And sometimes other people impact your life, too.’”
Although his team may not have won a National Championship this year, they were given a greater gift and lesson about life, love and inspiration.
Even though we may not have met Lacey or known what type of impact she could have had on our lives, the Redbird community has been able to come together with the tragic loss of one of our own, and former Heartland College athlete, Michael Collins.