Instead of rushing out to the court on Sunday night at the Staples Center, Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic had something more important to do.
Doncic stopped just short of the floor in Los Angeles to join his mother, Mirjam Poterbin, who was standing with 22-month-old Kris Zudich and his family.
Zudich and his family had traveled to Los Angeles from their home in Koper, Slovenia, so he could receive lifesaving treatment for type 1 spinal muscular atrophy, a rare genetic disease he had been diagnosed with. Their trek across the world, however, wouldn’t have been possible without Doncic — who helped raise more than $2.2 million for Zudich’s treatment in recent months.
Spinal muscular atrophy is a genetic disease affecting the central nervous system, and can severely hinder motor function in children, according to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. After Zudich was diagnosed, doctors told his parents that he needed Zolgensma gene therapy — which cost more than $2 million last year, according to the Dallas Morning News.
So his parents launched a crowdfunding campaign, which took off after Doncic, the Slovenian national volleyball team and other Slovenian stars picked it up on social media.
Zudich finally received the gene therapy last week at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, and will remain in Southern California for three months so doctors can monitor his progress.
“Luka wanted to meet him,” Poterbin said, via Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News. “Luka is so sensitive for kids. But they cannot stay here for the game because [Zudich’s] immune system is not strong.”
Doncic and the Mavericks topped the Lakers 114-100 behind a massive 28-5 run in the third quarter, snapping Los Angeles’ 10-game win streak. Doncic finished with a near-triple-double, too, recording 27 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in the win.
Though she’s incredibly impressed with her son’s stellar start to his NBA career — she said “he’s amazing” and can see he is simply playing “for the joy” of the game every time he steps on the court — it’s acts like Doncic showed before the game on Sunday that really stand out for Poterbin.
“It’s more important for me than the basketball, honestly,” Poterbin said, via the Dallas Morning News. “Because he shows every time that he’s a really good person. This is important to me.”
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