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LeBron James dropped in a game-high 24 points to lead the Cavaliers to a win in Boston on Tuesday night, but he made sure that a special needs athlete in the stands left feeling like the star of the game.
During a break in the action, James jogged over to greet Aaron Miller, 16, who had been honored earlier in the game by the Celtics as a "Hero Among Us."
"It was quite overwhelming,'' Deborah Miller, Aaron's mother, told TODAY.com. "It was unreal to see my son's reaction because he is a huge basketball fan. I think his facial expression said it all. There were just no words to describe seeing someone's hero approach him and touch him. Not only did he come over to him, he made a real connection with him, and that was incredible."
Miller was diagnosed with spastic hemiplegia at birth, leaving doctors fearing he would never be able to walk or talk. However, he was able to walk independently by the time he was four years old, and he has fought through several surgeries and endured countless hours of numerous therapies to defy the odds.
Aaron now competes for the junior varsity golf team and the Pilot Program basketball team at Newton North High School in Newton, Massachusetts. He plays both sports one-handed, sinking lefty 3-pointers and smacking tee shots, because his right arm is paralyzed, according to his mother. His older brother, Sam, 19, fostered his love of basketball, and Aaron has worked hard to be treated like any other athlete on the team.
"He is a walking miracle,'' Deborah said. "He really has gone above and beyond what we ever thought Aaron could do. We never gave up hope."
His inspiring story earned him a moment in the spotlight from the Celtics, which included an autographed jersey from forward David Lee.
"From the minute we walked it, to get that honor from the Celtics, it was so meaningful and so special,'' Deborah said.
James saw the story about Miller on the JumboTron during a timeout and decided to pay him a quick courtside visit, affectionately rubbing the shocked teen's head and, moments later, shooting him a thumbs-up and a few encouraging words from the floor. Aaron was at the game with his mother, his father, Scott, and one of his good friends.
"Obviously LeBron saw the story and said he wanted to pay his respect to my son,'' Deborah said. "I'm feeling extremely honored, and Aaron was just over the moon. He's quite an amazing guy to take the time to make someone's day like that. Aaron will never be the same. He still is on Cloud Nine. I'm surprised he even went to school today."
“I wasn’t able to hear the whole story because I was in the game and coach was drawing up a play, but I looked up at the jumbotron and I saw what he’s been through and where he is now — I think the doctors said he would never walk again or talk again, or something like that — this game means so much more than basketball,” James told reporters afterward.
Miller, who got a standing ovation from the home crowd after his story was shown, also happened to be wearing a pair of James' signature Nikes.
James found Miller after the Cavaliers' win and gave him his own game-worn shoes.
“I designed those shoes for kids with conditions where they can’t tie their own shoestrings, and he had a pair on,'' James said. "Those shoes that he had on are made for kids that can’t tie their own shoes, and it’s just one strap.
"When I saw his story, it was just like, I don’t know, I felt like I was a part of him,” James explained. “Just showing my respect, gave him my shoes. It was well received by him. It was not for you guys or the fans. It was for him.”
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