DALLAS – Unless a miracle occurs, John Thomas knows he’s in the final chapter of his life.
Thomas has stage 4 kidney cancer, and doctors have given him about four months left to live. But as he battles this insidious disease, Thomas had one last wish.
He wanted to attend a Dallas Mavericks game for the very first time.
A few emails and phone calls later, there was Thomas, not only sitting near the floor at the Mavs’ game with his wife and two daughters. But he also delivered the prestigious game ball to the referees prior to the Mavs’ contest against the Phoenix Suns this past Monday.
“This is a great honor,” Thomas said. “I can’t explain it.”
“It means that the Mavs love me very much to have to go through what they went through to give me this.”
Sherry Chapman went through hoops trying to help their father’s dying wish of attending a Mavs’ game come true.
“My mom called me on Sunday and asked me if there’s any way I can get him to a Mavericks game,” Chapman said. “It bugged me until I e-mailed (Mavs owner) Mark Cuban to see if there’s anything that he could do, but I didn’t think in a million years that he would have emailed me back.”
“But when he did, I was so excited. It just made me cry.”
Thomas was in tears, too. Especially after his name was shown on the Jumbotron at American Airlines Center.
With the nod from Cuban, Steve Letson (the vice-president of operations for the Mavs) and Mike Mattocks (the director of corporate sponsorships for the Mavs), got the ball rolling to make the inquiry by Thomas become true.
“I gave (Chapman) a call and she told me about her father, who has cancer and only has four months to live,” Letson said. “I said, ‘I’m sorry and let’s try to do something special for him.’”
“Before the game we do the Texas Oncology Game Ball Delivery and it’s typically a cancer survivor or somebody suffering from cancer. So I asked Mike Mattocks, who oversees that program, if we can schedule this gentleman for (the Phoenix game), and we juggled it around and made it happen.”
When the Mavs went the extra mile and had Thomas deliver the game ball, his oldest daughter, Kendra Thomas, said: “I got cold chills. I told him, I said, ‘Daddy your name is going to be on the scoreboard, you’re going to get to walk the game ball out.’
“He got tears in his eyes. This means the world to him.”
It also meant the world to Thomas’ wife of 32 years.
“This is amazing, and I am so glad that he gets to be here,” Lillie Thomas said. “I appreciate all that the Mavs have done.”
The Mavs were as delighted to make the request happen for Thomas as the recipient himself.
“I think it’s an honor and a privilege to be able to do something like that for somebody who’s going through something like he is, especially when he’s only given three or four months to live,” Letson said. “We try to go the extra length all the time for people in those cases, and this seems to be the perfect fit because he’d never been to a Mavericks game before, and for him to actually be on the floor with his daughters, to be able to watch the players warm up and come out and high-five them, and then be able to give the game ball, I think it was special for him.”
“And I’m just glad that Texas Oncology and our corporate department have this program in place that we were able to fit him in to do this. I think it worked out.”
John Thomas is currently a patient at Community Hospice of Texas.
“He’s doing pretty good,” Chapman said. “He’s taking it day by day.”
The patients and staff at Community Hospice of Texas sat around the television sets to watch John Thomas’ big moment when he delivered the game ball before the Suns-Mavs game. For John Thomas, it was akin to being a big man on campus occasion.
“He loves basketball and he especially loves the Mavericks,” Kendra Thomas said. “He said that he wanted to go see the Mavericks one more time, and here we are.”
Letson said Texas Oncology usually schedules their Game Ball Delivery weeks in advance, but made a special arrangement for John Thomas. Also, the Thomas’ had purchased upper level tickets for the game against the Suns, and the Mavs got them much closer to the court.
“His last wish was just to come to a game,” Letson said. “We were happy to do it.
“It’s always a pleasure to try to help anybody in need like that.”
In the Suns-Mavs game itself, John Thomas was glad he could get so close to his favorite player, forward Dirk Nowitzki.
“I love to watch the man do that fade away,” Thomas said. “The man is an all-around athlete.”
In an emotional moment, John Thomas then expressed gratitude for how the Mavs went out of their way to treat him and his family like royalty.
“I love the Mavericks,” John Thomas said. “Giving out the game ball, that’s the ultimate experience for me.”