When 11-year-old Los Angeles Lakers fan Marina Pellicciari woke up on Friday morning, she told her mom, it was the best day of her life. Her family had traveled all the way from New Jersey to take Marina to her first Lakers game, but little did she know she was going to meet her favorite player of all-time, Kobe Bryant.
Months earlier, Marina had been recovering from selective dorsal rhizotomy surgery, which helps to treat muscular spasticity in cerebral palsy (Marina was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at just 18 months old). The surgery was done to help reduce the incredible amounts of pain Marina had been dealing with, but it would also mean that Marina would have to re-learn how to walk again.
An avid basketball player, she was up for the challenge.
“I just kept going everyday, I didn’t slow down,” Marina said of the three months of rehab, seven weeks of which were in-patient care at NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital.
But, there was also something else that kept Marina going, even when she was confined to a wheel chair for a few weeks (which she talks about with a smile), and that was her favorite basketball player.
“I actually thought of Kobe Bryant. I feel like his motivation, it’s a part of me,” Marina said of what inspired her throughout the rehabilitation process.
And now, Marina can take a piece of Kobe with her forever.
“I got to meet him. I got to hug him. I got to go on the court with him. I got to hold his hand. It was awesome. I will never shower again. I’ve never experienced anything like this ever. It’s like the best day ever.”
Before Kobe said goodbye to his biggest fan, he made sure Marina would walk away with a piece of memorabilia she would never forget — a signed jersey, with a special message:
“To Marina, Dream Epic. Luv Always, Kobe Bryant.”