Teen Basketball Star Diagnosed with Brain Tumor Meets His Duke University Hero, RJ Barrett

A 16-year-old teen basketball player battling brain cancer was treated to a day of happiness when he visited the New York Knicks and met his hero, former college star, RJ Barrett.

Antonio Sellers has always been a fan of Duke University and dreamed of playing basketball for the legendary school. And he seemed to be well on his way — Sellers was an accomplished New Jersey basketball player who immediately made an impact for his high school team.

But just days after the basketball season ended in March 2019, Antonio complained of a headache so severe that he was taken to a local emergency room.

From there, he was transported to Saint Peter’s University Hospital, where doctors found a golf ball-sized tumor growing in Antonio’s brain. He would soon undergo emergency surgery to remove the cancerous mass, which would once again return in the weeks following his operation. The tumor would soon affect Antonio’s abilities to talk and move.

“Antonio had to spend over 100 consecutive days in the hospital, and [we] basically lived in the hospital for the duration of his stay,” Felicia Sellers, Antonio’s mother, tells PEOPLE, adding that Antonio has lost his ability to walk.

Since fifth grade, Antonio made it clear to his parents that he wanted to attend Duke and play for head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“It has been a dream and goal of his,” Felicia, 39, says. “He watches Duke play every year and admires all the players.”

One of his favorite Duke players is 19-year-old Barrett, who is now in his rookie season with the New York Knicks.

“When he was asked who he liked from the Knicks, the first name he mentioned was RJ Barrett,” Felicia recalls. “Because he’s from Duke and a part of the brotherhood Antonio always wanted to be a part of.”

With his disease progressing, Make-A-Wish and Garden of Dreams, a non-profit associated with the Madison Square Garden Company, teamed up to schedule a day for Antonio to hang with the team and meet Barrett in person.

On March 1, Antonio attended a Knicks practice, where he gave Barrett a special bracelet with his name on it. He was then a guest at the team’s victory against the Houston Rockets the very next day.

“RJ was so passionate about Antonio’s story and showed so much love and support,” Felicia says of the special day. “He inspired Antonio to continue to keep pushing and fighting.”


“Antonio was so excited after the Knicks won and RJ was wearing his band,” she added. “It meant a lot to know an NBA player supports your fight.”

Doctors recently told the family there were no other options to stop the growth of Antonio’s aggressive tumor, and they have chosen to end his chemotherapy treatment.

Antonio’s family is now focusing on other areas of his well-being, such as his diet and speech and occupational therapy.

“Life has changed dramatically for Antonio, but he continues to push himself daily,” Felicia says. “These last couple of months has been his best months ever. He tells us daily basketball is his life, and he is fighting to get back on the court.”

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