Meet Xavier Goncalves, young Celtics fan battling cancer who got game ball from Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum put together one of the greatest Game 7 performances in NBA history in the Celtics' 112-88 win over the 76ers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.Tatum scored a whopping 51 points against Philadelphia, breaking the NBA's record for most points in a Game 7. That mark had previously belonged to Warriors guard Stephen Curry, who owned it with 50 for just a few weeks before Tatum's outburst.The strong scoring performance from Tatum was a much-needed departure from his miserable Game 6 stat line. While he caught fire in the fourth quarter to propel the Celtics to a series-saving win, he only shot 5 of 21 from the field and scored just 19 total points. He also continued to miss shots in the first quarter, extending his streak of missed shots in that frame to 14 while barely scoring at all in the first half.Indeed, it was a strong bounce-back from Tatum, which Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck knew. That's why he presented Tatum with a game ball after Game 7; his performance was as great as it was necessary for Boston to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.However, as Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe detailed, Tatum did not keep the game ball. Instead, he gifted it to a 10-year-old cancer patient, Xavier Goncalves, who he had met earlier in the season.MORE: Jayson Tatum drops 51 points on Sixers to lead Celtics to Eastern Conference FinalsHere's what to know about Tatum's relationship with Goncalves and his family.Who is Xavier Goncalves?Xavier Goncalves is a 10-year-old cancer patient who is battling rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft-tissue cancer that is common in children. The disease was discovered when Goncalves' mother, Samantha Bowditch, noticed her son's eye was drooping. She took him to multiple doctors before it was eventually discovered that her son had a tumor growing behind his eye.Since then, he has undergone three surgeries to remove the tumor, 24 rounds of chemotherapy and months of radiation treatments at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Throughout it all, he talked frequently about the Celtics and Tatum, his favorite player, so a staff member reached out to the team to tell them about him.The Celtics would invite Goncalves and his family to an April 7 game against the Raptors. There, he would meet Tatum and the two would become fast friends.MORE: NBA Twitter reacts to Jayson Tatum's Game 7 heroicsJayson Tatum and Xavier Goncalves' friendshipTatum met Goncalves at the Celtics' 121-102 win over the Raptors and immediately saw some of himself in the kid.“He was cool, he was quiet,” Tatum told The Globe. “I just felt a connection.”Because of that, Tatum decided to stay in touch with Goncalves and his family. That involved going to visit Goncalves at his home in Christopher's Haven — a community and support system for young cancer patients and their families.Tatum got a chance to chat with Goncalves in their meeting, something that he hadn't been able to do at the TD Garden. The Celtics star came away from the discussion impressed with Goncalves' perseverance.“I asked him, like, ‘Do you get nervous?’ ” Tatum said. “And he just said, ‘Nah, because I know it’s going to help me. I know I have to do this.’ And his mom and everybody around him encourage him. I thought that was cool, because I’m like, ‘[Expletive], I get nervous before games going out in front of these people, and for you to be 10 years old and show that courage is impactful.’ ”MORE: Celtics vs. Heat predictions, odds, schedule for Eastern Conference Finals seriesAs such, Tatum has continued to stay in touch with Goncalves. That included inviting him to Game 7 against the Sixers — where Goncalves was presented with the game ball — and bringing him into the Celtics' locker room after they emerged victorious.Goncalves told his mother that was "the best day of his life"; and without a doubt, he has enjoyed getting to know Tatum on a personal level."Some celebrities might meet someone and then forget about them," Goncalves said. "But I’m glad we were able to make a bond."