PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s rare that rookies in Philadelphia become fan favorites before they ever play a game but Matisse Thybulle charmed the city instantly. Thybulle recently made new friends at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, including a 7-year-old Sixers fan in the fight of his life.
“My name is Freddy and I am in first grade,” Freddy said.
Seven-year-old Freddy Curley is a typical kid who loves to make jokes and laugh.
“He is undeniably one of the most handsome boys most people have ever seen. They tell me all the time,” said Freddy’s mother Beth. “He loves to play basketball, likes sports a lot. About two years ago when I started watching the Sixers, he just got real into basketball and ever since then it’s everything Sixers.”
Freddy tells CBS3’s Pat Gallen that Thybulle is his favorite player because Thybulle visited him while he was in the hospital.
Last month, Freddy was taken to CHOP with what his family described as a lingering illness.
“He was having flu-like symptoms for a little over a week, maybe two weeks. We took him to CHOP and through blood tests they concluded pretty quickly, in the matter of a few hours, that it was all the signs for leukemia,” Beth said.
Freddy was diagnosed with Type-B lymphoblastic leukemia.
“It was the worst day of our lives, definitely. It was the worst day of our lives,” Beth said.
After a blood transfusion and days of chemotherapy, Beth searched for a way to lift her son’s spirits.
“It was the Sunday after the diagnosis, so it was our sixth full day in the hospital and I knew that the next day was the day we were gonna have to tell Freddy,” Beth said.
Beth scrolled Instagram and found Thybulle. She felt compelled to send a heartfelt message to one of Freddy’s favorite players.
“I just poured my guts to him like, I never saw myself writing to a sports player, but Freddy’s such a fan and, I don’t know, I just had a feeling that it would be received,” Beth said.
But Beth reached out unaware of Matisse’s personal connection to the disease. Thybulle’s mother, Elizabeth, died of leukemia when he was just 17.
He spoke about losing her during the NBA Draft.
“My mom was a doctor, she took care of people, so I just try to give back as much as I can. And I feel like basketball has given me an amazing stage to be able to do that. And being in the NBA, I feel like I have even more of a stage to do that now,” Thybulle said.
Within hours, Thybulle responded and at 3 p.m. on the following afternoon, Matisse was at CHOP to meet Freddy and his family.
“He was really, really kind, as soon as we walked in he didn’t just go straight to Freddy, he high five’d everyone. And then Freddy was like, ‘You wanna play?'” Freddy’s sister Brynn said.
From his hospital bed, Freddy and Matisse went one on one.
“Somehow I’m in the hospital, laying in bed, making some threes and Thybulle, over here, can’t make a shot,” Freddy said.
Freddy beat Thybulle in a game of basketball 27-2.
Just hours after receiving the worst news of his young life, Freddy was on top of the world.
“It was amazing,” Freddy said.
And it was all thanks to the kindness of Matisse Thybulle.
“That’s what I told Matisse. This is what you did, you took this day that we were so fearful of and you turned it into this day that we never wanna forget now. And it was an amazing thing to have done for us,” Beth said.