As he posed for a family photo near half court, one of Donovan’s favorite players walked up behind him.
“Which one of you is Donovan?” asked Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma.
Donovan stared in awe as Kuzma pulled out custom Lakers jerseys for him and his siblings. They all put on their jerseys and played HORSE on the team’s practice court. Kuzma made things easy at first, then turned up the competitiveness to seal a friendly win against Donovan and his family.
Of course, Donovan has scored his share of victories. That he could even participate in such a moment with a member of his beloved Lakers is proof enough.
Donovan was born with pulmonary atresia, a type of heart disease in which the pulmonary valve does not form properly. He counts three open-heart surgeries and five stint surgeries among the health hurdles he has overcome, so it’s easy to see why he enjoyed being the UCLA Health Laker for a Day so much.
“I’ve been a Lakers fan ever since I could remember,” says Donovan.
As part of his Laker for a Day experience, Donovan had an amazing time at the UCLA Health Training Center – the home of the Lakers. He watched practice with his brothers Duncan, Brody and Isaiah as well as one of his sisters, Frankie, and their parents, Inez and Mike.
The Lakers had more than one surprise for Donovan. They first brought Donovan to the court to watch the end of their practice, where he met and took pictures with Lakers coach Luke Walton and 7-footer JaVale McGee. The Lakers invited Donovan and his family to shoot around on the same floor where the team had just practiced, and that’s when Kuzma came out of the locker room for the jersey surprise.
The family also received a tour of the team’s headquarters. Their favorite part was seeing the sparkling championship rings outside of Lakers owner Jeanie Buss’ office, where they debated which ring had the most diamonds in it.
Donovan arrived early to the Lakers’ game against Phoenix on Jan. 27, watching warm ups and getting to hang out in the Chairman’s Lounge for dinner. The fans applauded Donovan when the video of his story played during an on-court presentation, a moment Donovan and his family will always cherish.
“He always says to me, ‘I got to do well. I shouldn’t be living, so I got to make the best of my life,’” says Donovan’s father, Mike. “I go, ‘Well, you will.’”