Devorah Talia Gordon
Lifelong L.A. Laker’s fan Yitzi Teichman joked, “My first word was Kobe,” at a press conference on Sunday, January 31, referring to the team’s star player, Kobe Bryant.
As reporters looked on, the Make-A-Wish Foundation offered Teichman, a native of Valley Village who now lives in Baltimore, the opportunity to join his favorite basketball team for one day.
Yitzi Teichman almost went blind when a tumor in his brain started bleeding, damaging a facial nerve. Surgeons at Johns Hopkins removed the tumor several months ago, and Teichman is currently undergoing cancer treatment. According to NBA.com, Bryant sent a video to Teichman before his surgery.
When asked by the Foundation what he wished for, Teichman said he wanted to be a Laker. At the conference he quipped, “I didn’t have much of a shot considering my height; so it was either I’ve got to be good at basketball or get cancer. So I went the cancer route.”
Yitzi Teichman’s signed a one-day ceremonial contract on Sunday for the game against the Charlotte Hornets. Teichman shot some baskets with the team during warm-up – he even hit a three-point shot – but sat on the bench during the game. He wore the jersey the team gave him. Fittingly, it bore the number 18. “Well, I’m 18 years old and I’m Jewish and 18 is chai (life),” explained Teichman. The same jersey was once worn by two-time champion Sasha Vujacic.
Teichman’s parents and seven siblings joined him at the Staples Center. As a gift, he was given a signed ball and the players’ game shoes. “I’ve got all the player’s gaming shoes. Kobe [Bryant] signed a ball. Kobe signed shoes. My room is going to look nice when I get home.”
Teichman is now back in Baltimore, completing his last year of high school and deciding between college acceptances from the University of Maryland and Towson University. The teen brought his own message of hope and courage to the Lakers, who lost their 10th straight game on Sunday. “Keep fighting. Never give up. Stay strong. Especially in such a bad season, these guys know what it’s like to go through tough times.”
Clearly, Yitzi Teichman knows what it means to stay strong and keep fighting. “A lot of good happened…People think this is crazy, but it needed to happen, I guess. I’d rather it happen to me than anybody else. I can deal with it, a lot of people can’t.”
The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants a wish, on average, every 37 minutes to children with life-threatening illnesses. The organization granted more than 14,200 wishes in 2014 alone with the goal of impacting not only the recipient but the sponsors, donors, and communities who are involved in the wish. Wishes can be a “game-changer” for a child with an illness such as Yitzi’s; hopefully the fulfillment of his wish will inspire optimism both for him and those around him.
The Lakers may have lost the game, but the wish granted to Yitzi Teichman on Sunday was a true win for him and the basketball team.