Two Austin Hardwood Heroes will play at Final Four
This weekend Houston will host its third Final Four, but it's not just Oklahoma, Villanova, North Carolina and Syracuse preparing for the big stage.
Austinites Mike Thompson and Iram Leon will play at NRG Stadium this weekend in a game with a different feel - the feel of survival. Both Thompson and Leon beat cancer.
"I love the Final Four, I love March Madness," said Thompson, a 4-time cancer survivor. "In 2000, I didn't know if I'd see another one."
Doctors diagnosed Thompson with acute myocardial leukemia in 1995 when Thompson was just 10 years old. He battled cancer for eight years before finally going into remission.
"I remember writing a note to my mom that said, 'just let it kill me", Thompson said. He was 14 at the time.
Leon faced his own fight after doctors removed half the brain in his left temporal lobe. His surgery took place at Duke University in 2011. It just so happened Leon went in March.
"I wasn't much of a hoops fans before that," Leon admits. Basketball became a welcome distraction while he recuperated.
Instead of the end for both Thompson and Leon, it turns out cancer started something new for both. They both believe the people around them helped them survive.
When they take the court in Friday morning's Coaches vs. Cancer Hardwood Heroes game, they will do so channeling the same passion with which they fought off cancer.