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10-year-old cancer survivor befriends Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum

By Mary Saladna

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    BOSTON, Massachusetts (WCVB) — Boston Celtics fans everywhere are feeling pretty stoked following Sunday’s Game 7 win over the Philadelphia 76ers to reach the Eastern Conference finals.

Xavier Goncalves, of Raynham, Massachusetts, has even more reason to be excited because he got to take home the game ball.

Xavier, a 10-year-old cancer survivor, was gifted the game ball by Celtics star Jayson Tatum, who scored a Game 7 record 51 points with it.

“It was really cool and it was really surprising that he was willing to trust me with the ball, and just trust me in general to handle this with care,” Xavier said.

The friendship between Xavier and the NBA All-Star started about four weeks ago. Tatum heard Xavier was receiving cancer treatment in Boston, so he surprised the boy and his mother with tickets to a Celtics game and an autographed pair of Tatum’s signature shoes, the Jordan Tatum 1 Zoo.

“He’s just genuinely kind and a nice person,” said Samantha Bowditch, Xavier’s mother. “You can see when they’re talking and hanging out, he really cares about him.”

Like Tatum, Xavier is surrounded by a fantastic team made up of people from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston Children’s Hospital and Mass Eye and Ear. Xavier has also had ups and downs on his journey, and that’s where he and Tatum have connected about the importance of team and persistence.

“There’s a lot that I’ve learned from him,” Xavier said of Tatum. “He’s trying to help me focus on not only getting through it, but staying up with it.”

Xavier said he learned that staying positive, even on the bad days, can pay off. A couple of weeks ago, he got to ring the bell to mark the end of his radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

On Sunday, Xavier brought his positive energy to TD Garden for Game 7, and to him, the worn game ball is a lot more than a souvenir.

“Being able to see the warping, it honestly reminds me of how hard they try and how hard I try, and how it’s kind of similar,” Xavier said.

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