There is a connection between John Michael Night and Kent Bazemore that goes well beyond the uniform No. 24.
The two met last year when John Michael was at Atlanta’s Shepherd Center. The Orlando-area prep lacrosse star suffered a stroke. The paralyzing condition hit just weeks after John Michael was awarded an athletic and academic scholarship to Mercer College in Georgia.
Through a family friend, the Hawks connected John Micheal and Bazemore, who visited the young athlete twice at the Shepherd Center. Bazemore invited the family to a Hawks game in Atlanta. With the Hawks playing at the Magic Saturday, Bazemore had a chance to meet again with John Michael and his family.
“He is doing great,” said John Michael’s mother Vickie. “He’s made great progress. I was just showing him pictures of the first time he met Kent and how he looks now. Every week there is some progress even if it’s the slightest finger movement. It is something we were told he would never do.”
Several other Atlanta professional athletes have reached out to John Michael. Falcons running back Devonta Freeman, who also wears No. 24, sent a jersey. Braves television announcer Chip Caray, who lives in Orlando in the offseason, arrange for a visit with players at a game.
The family also met a famous No. 28. Former Falcons running back Warrick Dunn has spent time with John Michael. The family are big Florida State fans.
“It’s good to see that he is still fighting,” Bazemore said. “He cut his hair. He’s looking good. He is getting a lot stronger. It’s good to keep tabs and keep it all in perspective and see how far we’ve all come in a year’s time.”
John Michael has a poster of Bazemore with a personalized note in his bedroom. There is nothing like a face-to-face meeting.
“It lifts his spirits so much,” Vickie said.
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