LeBron James: Leah Still in arena 'absolutely' raised performance

ByDave McMenamin ESPN logo
Wednesday, January 6, 2016

WASHINGTON --Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James had one of his more riveting performances of the season Wednesday in a 121-115 win over the Washington Wizards and said afterward he was motivated to put on a show for a special fan of his in attendance.

Leah Still, the daughter of NFL defensive tackle Devon Still, was in the stands wearing James' replica No. 23 jersey as James scored a game-high 34 points, which included four 3-pointers in a three-minute span to open the second half.

Devon Still chronicled his daughter's meeting with James and her excitement to watch his performance.

"Absolutely," James said when asked if Leah's presence affected his output. "I knew she was going to be there tonight, and her and Zhuri, my baby girl, are my two favorite women in the world. They're just unbelievable. I know my mom and my wife will be a little bit jealous, but they got to take a backseat to those two. Just her strength and her courage and what she's been through over the last few years, man, it's uplifting to all of us, and it's always great seeing her, for sure."

Leah, who is 5, fought neuroblastoma, a rare pediatric cancer, for more than a year and was the recipient of the Jimmy V Perseverance award at the 2015 ESPYS in July for her unwavering spirit in dealing with the disease.

James presented the trophy to Devon Still on stage in Los Angeles that night.

Leah was unable to attend because of the stem-cell treatments she was undergoing at the time but appeared on screen to present a video message to the audience.

James sent Leah an autographed jersey in December 2014 after hearing of her condition and fondness of him. The two later met at the NBA All-Star Game in New York in February.

Leah's visit came on the same day her father signed a futures contract with the Houston Texans, joining his first team since being released by the Cincinnati Bengals in September.

"Signed by Houston," James said with a smile. "That's all blessings from the man above."

Before spending some time with Leah in the visitors' locker room after the game, James was asked to explain what prompted his connection with her.

"I got a daughter, and then just also being a father and seeing what Devon was going through at the time to keep that strength and keep his composure when his daughter was going through what she was going through, it just resonated, man," James said. "And from that point on, we became good friends, and I'm good friends with Devon.

"Obviously, Leah is like a little sister of mine, or maybe she probably wishes I was like a dad to her, too. You know, like I said, it's always great seeing her."

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