James and Wade #meetjoey

LeBron James, as with most successful athletes, teams, or programs, could be considered a polarizing figure – people love him or love to hate him.

But that view is pretty narrow in that it’s basically a response to what he does on the court, where his transcendent game has a way of making believers out of people – at least those who appreciate the game.

However, sometimes what happens off the court is just as worthy of our interest at the very least, and our respect at the very most.

Recently, James and teammate Dwyane Wade took their off-court presence to a completely new level.

Joey Cawyer, of Cheney, Washington, has been a big LeBron James fan since James’ senior year of high school. Cawyer also played pickup basketball for years, as well as played on the soccer team at Spokane Falls (Wash.) Community College.

But the similarities between Cawyer and other sports fans of his generation pretty much end there. Cawyer was diagnosed with grade 4 glioblastoma in April 2010. Doctors said he had little more than 12 months remaining in his battle against the most aggressive form of a brain tumor, but Cawyer has more than doubled his experts’ prognostications.

Now, however, they are all in agreement that the tumor has become more aggressive and that he doesn’t have much time left. So Cawyer’s friends decided to provide him with one final, awesome memory.

Thinking it was a longshot, friend Nicole Peterson posted on what appeared to be LeBron James’ Facebook page asking if he could meet her dying friend. And Cawyer’s best friend, Drew Peterson, along with Thang Nguyen, started a Twitter campaign with the hash tag #meetjoey, and received support from broadcaster Dick Vitale, Gonzaga men’s basketball players Kevin Pangos and Sam Dower, and Seattle Seahawk Jeron Johnson, among many others.

Cawyer’s mom, Cindy Anderson, and he already had plans to go to Portland to see his favorite player and team. But thanks to the campaign to #meetjoey, when the friends all headed to Portland on January 10, they had front-row seats.

And that was just the beginning.

After the game, the young men and Cindy were escorted through the Rose Garden Arena to wait for LeBron.

“Everybody had their Sharpies out, and LeBron just kept saying to them, ‘Thanks but I’m looking for Joey,’” Cindy told the Spokane Spokesman-Review.

She described the scene as “the happiest I’ve seen Joey in a long, long time.”

“(LeBron) was extremely friendly, compassionate and empathetic. He took time with Joey, signed his hat and jersey, took a ton of pictures. LeBron and Dwyane Wade told him to keep up the good fight saying, ‘You’re strong.’”

Joey’s doctors have told his family that he needs to be put into hospice care, which made Thursday night’s meeting that much more important.

“I haven’t seen a lot of expression from Joey in the last two weeks because of the effects of his brain cancer,” Cindy said. “Last night you could see he was so – not just happy – but he was elated and content. He smiled so much. He was really, really, really happy.”

Drew Peterson agreed.

“Joey’s been our best friend our whole lives and to see him struggling like this is tough,” Peterson said. “To see him have that moment when he forgot about everything, for that one moment when he didn’t think about fighting cancer, it was really emotional. To see him have that dream come true was really special.

“We’ve always given Joey a lot of flak for liking LeBron because we’re Kobe fans. But after last night, I think we’re LeBron fans too.”

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