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Playing Basketball with Dirk Nowitzki Helped Me Turn My Life Around

Anna's wish was to meet Dirk Nowitzki, power forward for the Dallas Mavericks.
Most of her life, Anna has experienced headaches and dizzy spells. Doctors often speculated these were caused by stress or anxiety — perhaps even allergies. But in February 2016, Anna received a far more devastating diagnosis: She had a brain tumor. On Feb. 25, 2016, she endured six hours of life-saving brain surgery.
But there is another side to Anna that has been part of her since she was 5 years old: basketball. As a young child from Carrollton, Texas, she became one of the Dallas Mavericks biggest fans. Despite her passion and practice, her illness and the treatments that followed have forced her to scale back her time on the court, as she has lost half her vision in both eyes.

It has been a tremendous, and at times difficult, road to recovery for Anna. Remarkably, the 14-year-old was able to mark the one-year anniversary of her brain surgery with something powerful: a wish.

This is Anna’s story.

I had no idea that my grandpa had referred me to Make-A-Wish®, so when I was told my wish would be granted, I was astonished. I knew I had to choose a wish that I would remember forever. 

Well, I’ve been a Dallas Mavericks fan forever, and power forward Dirk Nowitzki has always been my idol. He’s the star of the Mavs, and he’s such a great person who participates in multiple charities. I fell in love with him from a game perspective and from a personal connection. I mean, how can you not love Dirk?

As I considered my passions, it hit me. I wished to play H-O-R-S-E with my idol, the legend, Dirk Nowitzki.

On Feb. 25, 2017, exactly one year after my surgery, my wish to meet Dirk was granted. The night started with a limo ride to the Mavs game, followed by a shoot-around on the court. I was then shown to my seat in the arena — which was courtside and right by the bench! After a Mavs victory against the New Orleans Pelicans, I went to the practice court and shot around some more, awaiting the arrival of the Big German.

Pivot to Positivity

As soon as I saw Dirk, I put on my game face. I was ready to beat him in his own game. He kicked off his shoes, and the game began. We played for best out of three, and the first round he took the win. In the second game, before I knew it, we were tied at H-O-R-S. I was trying to drain a free-throw for my last shot, and he was trying to drain a 3-pointer, but he beat me to it and it was game. 

In a way, I still won it all. 

Living out my wish helped me put a positive spin on everything that has happened to me. The day of my surgery was the hardest day of my life, but my wish helped me no longer think of that day as a bad one. I can now look back on Feb. 25 as one of the best days of my life. 

Playing H-O-R-S-E with Dirk has also taught me to persevere and to be resilient. There was a point in our game when I drained a 3-pointer against him. I just hit it. It made me think, Hey, I still have the same shots I had before my surgery. My wish gave me so much confidence, and Dirk really allowed me to just be loose and realize I can still play and keep up with one of the best.

Plus, being friends with THE Dirk Nowitzki is one of the coolest things ever. 

Confidence on the Court

Since my wish, I’ve found the confidence to get back on the court and keep at it. I even attended four basketball camps last summer, which helped me feel a part of a team again and just have fun. 

I cannot express how much this wish has helped me grow as a person. And I can’t thank Make-A-Wish and Dirk enough for granting my wish! It will affect me for the rest of my life, and I’m so grateful for that.

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You can transform lives, one wish at a time. Research shows that granting wishes like Anna’s can offer valuable emotional healing to children battling critical illnesses*. Today, only about half of those eligible for a wish receive one. Help us reach our goal of granting the wish of every eligible child. Donate to Make-A-Wish America or connect with your local Make-A-Wish chapter to discover more ways to help. With your support, we will ensure that more kids experience some of the best days of their lives.

*Shashani, A. Mifano, K. Czamanski-Cohen, J. (2015). The effects of the Make-A-Wish intervention on psychiatric symptoms and health-related quality of life of children with cancer: a randomized controlled trial. Quality of Life Research, 25(5), 1209-1218. Doi 10.1007/s11136-015-1148-7

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If you know a child who might benefit from a wish, submit a referral today.  

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Do you have a Make-A-Wish story? We’d love to hear your it! Email Cindy Goldberg, editorial manager at Make-A-Wish America, describing how a wish transformed your life in 350 words or less. Your story could be featured on Wish Nation!


About this Blog

Wish Nation gives you a behind-the-scenes look at Make-A-Wish®. See how wishes come together and how they change lives forever. Hear directly from those who work or volunteer here, or those who have been transformed by a wish. And learn why we are so committed to someday granting the wish of every eligible child, every year.

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