Former NBA player Adreian Payne has sadly died in an Orlando shooting at just 31 years old, The Guardian reports.
Payne, a Michigan State basketball star, played in 107 NBA games and averaged four points and three rebounds over four seasons.
During his college years and early career, Adreian developed an unlikely friendship with eight-year-old cancer patient Lacey Holsworth, who sadly passed away in 2014.
Payne and Holsworth’s family nicknamed her ‘Princess Lacey’, and the basketball star even referred to her as his little sister.
Amid the sad news of Adreian’s death, we take a look at the friendship he shared with Princess Lacey.
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Who was Princess Lacey?
Lacey Holsworth, nicknamed Princess Lacey, was an eight-year-old girl who sadly lost her battle with cancer in 2014.
As reported by ESPN, Holsworth had neuroblastoma, a fetal-nerve cell cancer, and often wore a blonde wig following hair loss caused by chemotherapy.
In 2011, it was found a tumour had engulfed her kidney, while one around her spine was discovered when she experienced back pain while dancing.
The same year, NBA star Adreian Payne met Lacey for the first time during a hospital visit, and the two quickly forged a close bond. Payne would end up frequently visiting Holsworth in hospital and often flew her out to watch his games in Michigan, New York and other areas across the country. The pair remained close until Lacey’s passing.
Matt Holsworth, Lacey’s father, described her as someone who “loved unconditionally and without hesitation”.
“Spreading her love and smile throughout the world. Please don’t let her love and smile fade,” he added.
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NBA star’s friendship with Lacey Holsworth
Lacey Holsworth was a huge supporter of NBA star Adreian Payne, and even became a celebrity among the Michigan State Spartans.
“(Lacey) said she first liked me because of my smile, but it’s her smile that made America fall in love with her. I know she’s smiling and dancing in heaven right now. My princess is now an angel,” Payne shared in a statement at the time of her death.
During the time of their friendship, Lacey and her family were flown out to various states to watch the basketball star play, including New York and Dallas.
When Adreian was invited to the Final Four to participate in the slam dunk contest, he initially declined until he was given news that Holsworth and her family were also invited. “Would Lacey be interested in going to Dallas?” Payne asked Matt over the phone. Matt Holsworth agreed.
“By the end of our season, (Lacey) had turned into a celebrity,” Payne recalled after fans in Dallas asked to meet the eight-year-old. “I had no idea it was going to be like this, no clue. I was just doing what came natural. I tried to help someone and it went worldwide.”
When Lacey passed away in 2014, the NBA player spoke at her memorial service and also released a statement, as reported by ABC News.
“Words can’t express how much I already miss Lacey,” he said. “She is my sister, and will always be a part of my life. She taught me how to fight through everything with a smile on my face even when things were going wrong. I’m a better man because of her.”
Adreian Payne shot dead aged 31
Eight years after Lacey’s passing, Adreian Payne has died in an Orlando shooting at 31 years old.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office said deputies responded to a shooting on 9 May, and Payne was taken to the hospital where he was officially pronounced dead.
As reported by The Guardian, a suspect was arrested on a first-degree murder warrant after homicide detectives interviewed him.
The Focus sends its thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of Adreian Payne.