The Los Angeles Lakers made a wish come true for 18-year-old Yitzi Teichman, who’s been battling cancer, since having a brain tumor removed last year, by signing him to a one-day contract prior to the game versus the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday night.
“I had my surgery at Johns Hopkins and Make-A-Wish came and they were like what do you want to do with your wish? Pretty easy,” Teichman smiled. “I want to be a Laker.”
Several months later, he was signing a contract with general manager Mitch Kupchak, putting on his personalized No. 18 Lakers jersey, kicking it with Kobe Bryant, attending team meetings and shooting around with the Lakers in their pre-game warmups.
But, Teichman admitted he had no idea this day would actually be a reality or that it would even be possible.
“I can’t thank them enough. That’s crazy,” Teichman said of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. “This is not even possible and they made it possible.”
“It was awesome,” Bryant said after the game. “He was just a part of the crew. He came in here and just hung out, sat next to me. He was here pregame, halftime, postgame. He fit in very well. He has an amazing spirit and he also has a positive outlook on the situation in terms of how he was able to pick it up.”
Speaking of that positive outlook, Teichman was cracking jokes since the second he signed his contract.
“I don’t have much other shot (at being a Laker) considering my height. It’s either you’ve got to be good at basketball or get cancer,” Teichman laughed. “So, I went with the cancer route.”
Teichman said he’s found laughter and cracking jokes his best avenue for dealing with his battles.
“Always make jokes, always keep smiling and when things get awkward just keep being funny and things get more awkward. Just keep being funny. Keep on saying things where people say things like ‘Wow did he really just say that?’ Eventually it just gets so awkward, that it’s not awkward anymore.”
With the cameras on him, Teichman gave his first shoutout to his friend, Avi, who is also battling cancer. He then smiled when talking about his seven siblings and parents that were with him for the game. Teichman said he was born a Lakers fan and recalls his favorite Lakers memory while watching Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals with his father at a McDonalds.
“My favorite Laker memory is with my Dad. We were flying to New York the night of Game 7 against the Celtics. We sat in front of a McDonalds TV that was probably about 19 inches. With probably 200-300 people and we all cheered. Celtics fans on one side. Lakers fans on another side. They won, so that was my favorite Laker memory.”
What will Teichman tell his friends was the coolest part about his day?
“Hanging out with Kobe on such a casual level,” Teichman grinned.
Well, he’s got plenty of swag to prove it. From signed shoes to new gear to a signed Kobe Bryant basketball, Teichman made out like a bandit before leaving the locker room and saying goodbye to Bryant one last time.
“My room is going to look nice when I get home.”
Teichman is doing much better now, happy to be back in school. He’s deciding which college he wants to attend in the fall: Towson University or the University of Maryland College Park.
What will he take away with him from this Lakers experience?
“Keep fighting, never give up, stay strong.”