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Her father, Matt Holsworth, told The Associated Press that Lacey died at their St. Johns, Mich., home "with her mommy and daddy holding her in their arms."
Lacey Holsworth had neuroblastoma, a fetal-nerve cell cancer, and wore a blond wig because chemotherapy caused her to lose her hair. She met Payne two years ago while she was in the hospital for a cancer treatment and struck up an immediate bond with him.
"She loved unconditionally and without hesitation," Matt Holsworth said.
Lacey had been a huge supporter of Payne, and he reciprocated by becoming a close friend, visiting her at the hospital and inviting her to games.
"She is such a huge part of my life," Payne told the Detroit News recently. "And she grew to be part of my family."
The 6-foot-10 Payne carried her around the court on Senior Night at Michigan State, and Lacey got to help the Spartans cut down the nets after they won the Big Ten tournament and she received a championship hat with the rest of the team.
She also was with the Spartans for the East Regionals of the NCAA tournament and accompanied Payne to the College Slam Dunk Championship during Final Four weekend in Dallas.
JHN, thank you for this heart warming story. Now that my eyes are dry I can type. Such a beautiful loving relationship between them that should be an inspiratiion to all. It costs nothing to love and be loving as these two have shown,but the gains can be life changing. RIP Lacey.
Kind of gives me my hope back for humanity. A truly lovely story and beautiful friendship.