All of the hype and the hoopla.
- Bio | E-mail | Recent columns
- Introducing Orlando Dunkman: Control our underground mascot
- Pictures: 2012 NBA All-Star Game
- Pictures: 2012 NBA All-Star Saturday Night
- Pictures: 2012 NBA All-Star Celebrity and Rising Star games
- Pictures: Fans enjoying 2012 NBA All-Star events
- Pictures: Eastern Conference roster for 2012 NBA All-Star Game
See more photos »
All because this man believed.
All because Pat Williams believed in Orlando.
Believed in Magic.
And now, as Orlando gets ready to have the time of its life during this NBA All-Star Weekend, Pat Williams continues to fight for his own survival.
"I've got a lot more life to live," says Pat, the co-founder, father and senior vice president of the Orlando Magic. "I've got more books to write, more speeches to give and all my grandchildren to educate."
He is sitting out by his swimming pool in Winter Park as three of his granddaughters — Audri, Ava and Laila — are frolicking in the sun down near the banks of Lake Killarney. It was almost a year ago to this very day when Pat sat at this same table and told me he had cancer.
The disease is called multiple myeloma, an aggressive cancer that infiltrates the blood plasma in the bone marrow. It is inoperable and incurable but sometimes can be treated with chemo to the point of inactivity.
"The Mission is Remission!" Pat declared that day a year ago.
"Well," Pat says now, "the chemo didn't work."
For most 71-year-old men, this might have been a death sentence. Not Pat, the ultimate optimist who, along with local businessman Jimmy Hewitt, had this silly notion 26 years ago that they could team up and bring the NBA to a basketball-illiterate city in the middle of a football-fanatical state. They were scoffed at and called foolish dreamers by all the good ol' boy football helmet-heads.
Well, guess what? Here we are a quarter-century later and this no-horse sports town has become a thriving NBA city. Without Pat and Jimmy, there would be no All-Star Game this weekend. There would be no sparkling new state-of-the-art arena. And there wouldn't be all of those nights and Dwights to remember.
"Pat's always been the ultimate optimist," Hewitt says. "He's always been the one guy who believes anything is possible — whether its bringing an NBA franchise to a football town or fighting cancer. His motto has always been, "We can do it! We can get it done!"
It's this attitude that has allowed Pat to live and fight the next battle with multiple myeloma. After nearly a year's worth of chemo failed, doctors at Florida Hospital have taken it to the next level. It's known as a stem cell transplant. Or as Pat — the ultimate baseball junkie — calls it, "the out pitch."
"I wanted them to throw me everything they had in their medicine cabinet," Pat says and smiles.
And, so, doctors went in and harvested healthy stem cells from his bone marrow, froze them and then nuked the bone marrow with heavy doses of chemo to try and kill everything that was left over. A nurse told Pat it was like "preparing the soil to plant new seeds in your garden." Twice, in the last several weeks, he had to endure 96 continuous hours of noxious, nauseating chemo to prepare for this medical reseeding.