- Philadelphia 76ers fan Mike Shelly hit a half-court shot on Saturday night to win Chick-fil-A for every fan in attendance.
- After his shot went viral, fans began to learn of Shelly’s backstory, including his battle with cancer and the recent loss of his older brother.
- The team has embraced Shelly and invited him to be a part of some team ceremonies.
On Saturday night, the Philadelphia 76ers lost at home to the Golden State Warriors, 124-116, after taking a 74-52 lead into halftime.
It was a disappointing loss for the up-and-coming Sixers, who have emerged as one of the most exciting teams to watch in this young NBA season, but one fan still found a way to send the Philadelphia crowd home happy: 17-year-old Mike Shelly, who hit a half-court shot during a television timeout to win Chick-fil-A for every fan in attendance.
— JJ Fritsch (@phillyphan94) November 19, 2017
While his shot was undoubtedly incredible, it became all the more heartwarming when fans learned the details of Shelly’s story.
As Matt Mullin and Kyle Neubeck at Philly Voice noted, Shelly was 14 years old when he was diagnosed with stage IV Burkitt lymphoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Now 17, he was declared cancer-free just over a year ago. As Shelly told Philly Voice, stepping into the bright lights of a sold-out NBA stadium isn’t that scary of a challenge once you’ve stared down cancer.
“After what I’ve been through, stuff like [going out on the court at the Wells Fargo Center] is not a worry to me, it’s more like a blessing,” Shelly said. “I’d say that I’m not really stressed out to go hit a half-court shot; it’s more like, I try to take it all in and go, ‘Wow, this is awesome. I’m not stressed out about this. I’m going to enjoy it. I’m not going to take it for granted. This is really an honor.'”
Unfortunately, tragedy struck Shelly and his family again in August, when his brother Andrew, died in a car accident. To celebrate Andrew’s life and love of the team, Shelly and his father have been attending more games this season.
Shelly’s selection as the fateful halftime shooter on Saturday night had been a coincidence, but once the Sixers heard about his backstory, the team snapped into action to embrace the young man.
To start, Shelly was asked to ring the ceremonial pre-game bell ahead of Monday night’s game against the Utah Jazz. His seats were also upgraded to courtside for the game. When he arrived at the arena, Shelly was surprised with a jersey from the team, presented to him by first overall pick Markelle Fultz.
Mike Shelly, who beat cancer last year and then wowed fans in Philly by hitting incredible half-court shot on Saturday, is heading on the trip of a lifetime courtesy of @sixers & @ChickfilA! Special thanks to @MarkelleF & @ChristianCrosby! pic.twitter.com/hvZKV7s1mJ
— Dave Sholler (@DaveSholler) November 20, 2017
Additionally, Shelly was invited to travel to Atlanta with the team for their game against the Hawks, where he’ll get a tour of the Chick-fil-A headquarters.
While all the free chicken, gifted jerseys, and courtside upgrades are nice, Shelly said that the most important part of the experience has been the knowledge that it could help comfort other kids like him.
“People see me out there before they know my story, and they’re like, ‘Wow, that kid just hit a big shot. That’s so cool,'” he said when asked about his favorite part of all this. “But after people and especially kids with pediatric cancer see [my story] – like, when I went through my whole treatment, it was really awesome to see kids who have gone through it do bigger things, or go on to play in the NFL like Eric Berry, who had cancer and now he plays in the NFL. Like, that was always a, ‘Wow! This does get better; things do happen after cancer.’ In the moment, it sucks. But if I was a kid in a hospital and saw that – another kid hitting a shot at the Sixers game – I’d be like, ‘Wow, he’s really enjoying himself.’
“That’s the biggest thing, I’d say, would be to help anyone out with what I did.”
Shelly won’t be heading to Atlanta with the team until March, but there’s little doubt he’ll be seen around Sixers games in the mean time – after all, Philly is now undefeated in games where he’s rung the opening bell.
You can read more about Shelly’s story here.