April 9, 2014 at 9:46 AM ET
Lacey Holsworth, the 8-year-old girl who formed a close bond with Michigan State basketball star Adreian Payne, lost her battle with cancer early Wednesday morning.
Lacey met Payne two years ago when he visited her in the hospital where she was being treated for neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer. Affectionately known as "Princess Lacey," she visited often with Payne and was on hand in person to see Michigan State win the Big Ten Tournament title this season. Her parents made the announcement about her death on Twitter and Instagram.
Lacey, who wore a blond wig after losing her hair from chemotherapy treatments, became a fixture at Michigan State games to cheer on Payne.
She attended Senior Night at Michigan State last month, where she was carried around the court by Payne. She also was pulled to the top of the ladder by Payne when the Spartans cut down the nets after winning the Big Ten Tournament. Payne followed that by scoring 41 points, setting a team record for the most points in an NCAA Tournament game.
“Just knowing that when I play well it makes her happy, it feels like I'm doing something in a way to help her feel better," Payne told MLive before the NCAA Tournament.
Lacey's story inspired many, including ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas, who has 674,000 Twitter followers and had never followed anyone until he started following Lacey's feed.
Lacey also joined Payne in Dallas to judge a dunk contest only four days before her death.
She was first diagnosed in 2011, when doctors found a tumor in her kidney after she complained of back pain, and another tumor was discovered on her spine. It was during that time that she first met Payne, forming a tight friendship with the NBA-bound star. However, the cancer soon spread to her neck, head and pelvis.