The story shook Daequan Cook to the core the moment he laid eyes on it.
He knew immediately he had to do something.
Tragedy had struck, and every detail landed right on Cook's doorstep.
On June 13, 2009, a little boy was killed by a hit-and-run. He was 12 years old.
Any human with a heart would have compassion for that alone.
But this little boy's name was DaQuan Sales. His prename was pronounced the same way as the first-year Thunder shooting guard's. Sales was killed in Dayton, Ohio, in a neighborhood not far from where Cook grew up.
“It just really hit me,” Cook said. “Hit me in a spot, a very soft spot.”
Cook was a member of the Miami Heat at the time. He was entering his third NBA season as a rising sharp-shooting threat. He had won the NBA's 3-point shootout that February at All-Star Weekend in Phoenix. Things were looking up for Cook's career.
Then came a reality check.
Sales was one of Cook's biggest fans. The kid loved basketball and wanted to be just like the reigning 3-point king. Sales knew Cook's stats, rooted for him whenever he was on television and pretended he was Cook while on the playground.
Cook hardly could believe how the tragedy took place.
Sales was riding his bike along Elmhurst Road that Saturday when he was struck by a white Buick that had crossed a double yellow line. Sales was pedaling back home after retrieving a registration form to attend Cook's annual basketball camp. The camp was scheduled to be held nine days later.
“His mom had told me about how he marked it on his calendar,” Cook said. “How it was one of the biggest events of his summer to do.”
Cook was in Miami at the time of the incident. The Heat's media relations staff had gotten wind of the tragedy and passed along the particulars to Cook. It wasn't long before Cook called up with his mother, Renee, to get her advice. She told him to follow his heart.
With the help of Albert Powell, Cook's high school coach at Dunbar High in Dayton, Cook reached out to Sales' family. He sponsored Sales' three siblings and 10 other friends at that year's camp.
“I felt like I had to do something for that kid and his family,” Cook said.
Cook also sent the Sales family flowers and helped to pay for the funeral service. But the more DaQuan Sales' mother, Janell, told Cook about her son, the more compassionate Cook became.
Cook, his mother and Powell later started the DaQuan Sales Scholarship Fund, which has raised more than $150,000 and will award at least one college scholarship to a kid each year.
“Giving kids a scholarship to school is something I felt like I could do to honor him and keep his legacy going,” Cook said. “I felt like I should just name it after him.”
Cook also contributed to the “Be Safe/Wear a Helmet” program at DaQuan's school, Fairview Elementary. The program provided all 450 students with helmets and was established in memory of Sales to promote bicycle safety.
Sales wasn't wearing a helmet. Police said the driver, then-25-year-old Antwonne McGinnis, sped away before returning to answer to authorities. McGinnis did not have a driver's license.
Nearly two years later, Cook is still touched by the boy friends and family affectionately referred to as “Day-Day.” Cook continues to invite Sales' family to his camp every summer. He makes a point to pull DaQuan's family aside on the first day and try his best to uplift their spirits. Or just make them smile.
“I told them that I was a part of the family now,” Cook said.
In part for how he provided for the Sales family, Cook received the NBA Cares Community Assist Award for the 2009 offeseason. The award recognizes players' outstanding efforts in the community and philanthropic and charitable work.
“It shows he has a big heart,” said Heat guard Mario Chalmers, a former teammate of Cook's. “Anytime somebody's willing to help out somebody that's less fortunate than them, it shows that they care about the community and they care about what's going on. That's the type of person he is.”
Cook firmly believes he was destined to be there.
“I learned a lot,” said Cook, a father of two at 23. “You can't take stuff for granted. That's just important to me in life. Everything I do, I do it for a reason and a purpose, not knowing when your day is going to come.”