The nurses in the transplant ward at the Baylor Cancer Hospital in Dallas didn’t want the Thunder and Spurs going to overtime the other night.
It had nothing to do with who won and who lost.
They just wanted Conner Davey to stop yelling.
“Thank goodness I’m at the end of the hallway,” the 22-year-old Oklahoma native said, “but I am a very vocal fan. Very vocal.”
He became a diehard because his grandma was one first. He adopted his favorite player’s focus on fundamentals growing up in Goldsby. Nowadays, he wears that same player’s jersey when he takes chemo and looks forward to playoff games as the best part of an extended hospital stay.
Yes, Davey loves the Spurs.
On the eve of the NBA Finals opener, plenty of Thunder fans are lamenting what could’ve been. Why couldn’t the Thunder have won the West? Why couldn’t Oklahoma City be the one hosting Miami?There are lots of basketball answers to those questions, but if you’re looking for reason to feel a little better about the Spurs moving on instead of the Thunder, Conner Davey is a good place to start.
He grew up a big basketball fan. Even though the NBA had stars like Michael Jordan and John Stockton, Davey didn’t take to the league right away. There just wasn’t a good team anywhere close to him in Oklahoma.
But his grandparents lived in San Antonio, and he visited often as a kid. His grandma was a dyed-in-the-black-and-silver-wool Spurs fan.
“She kind of engrained it into me to love David Robinson,” Davey said.
Then, as luck would have it, Davey started paying attention to college basketball about the same time that Tim Duncan landed at Wake Forest.
In 1997, San Antonio drafted Duncan, and Davey’s love of the Spurs was solidified.
It didn’t hurt that the Spurs won their first title two years later.
Davey was so enamored with Duncan that he tried to pattern himself after Mr. Fundamentals. Playing basketball throughout middle school and high school in the Washington School District, Davey was never the biggest or fastest or most gifted player, but he worked hard at the basics because of Duncan.
“Every day,” he said, “I shot a hundred shots ... off the left-hand side where he always shot.”
Davey continued to pull for the Spurs even after the Thunder arrived. Truth is, his passion for the Spurs actually grew.
“It drove me crazy when people would try to tell me how the Thunder was better than the Spurs,” he said, adding that he’d get a hundred text messages any time Oklahoma City beat San Antonio. “It just intensified my passion for liking the Spurs and disliking the Thunder.”
The Spurs and the Thunder were a couple weeks away from their third game of the 2012-13 regular season when Davey was diagnosed with cancer.
Davey was in his junior year at Oklahoma. A pre-med major working on a zoology degree. Because of several months of chemo needed to kill the cancer in his lymphatic system, he had to drop out for the remainder of the semester.
But on July 5, 2013, only a few weeks after the Spurs lost to the Heat in the NBA Finals, Davey had his last treatment and went into remission. He started school again in the fall, and everything was great. He was still a little weak and tired from all of his treatments, but for the most part, he felt good.
After returning to campus from Christmas break, Davey went out for a beer with some friends. The right side of his neck swelled up a bunch.
When he went out for a beer a week later and his neck swelled again, Davey did what many Americans do when they have medical questions and searched WebMD.com.
One of the symptoms of Hodgkin’s, it said, is neck swelling.
His doctor soon confirmed what Davey feared — his cancer had returned.
“Usually it doesn’t come back for a few years if it does come back,” Davey said, “and it came back in like six months. That means it’s pretty aggressive.”
His doctors decided chemo wouldn’t be enough and scheduled him for a stem cell transplant.
On May 19, Davey checked into the Baylor Cancer Hospital for seven straight days of chemo to prepare his body for the transplant. It knocked down his white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets.
Then after a day of rest, he got the transplant.
The hope is that the transplanted stem cells clear out the cancer and provide a re-boot of Davey’s system. But in the process, his immune system was depleted, so he has to stay in the hospital until his white blood cell count rebounds.
Davey hopes that happens in the next few days, but until then, he’s waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
“I am quite bored,” he said. “They block all the good movie websites. They don’t have any good TV.”
Unless the Spurs are playing.
No matter if he’s hooked up to a machine or taking some meds or feeling blah, he puts on his jersey and hunkers down in this room to watch the game. The Spurs’ long run through the playoffs have been a godsend for Davey.
“I don’t want to say I prayed about it,” he said, “but it definitely makes it easier being the hospital, being able to root for the Spurs.”
Everyone in the ward knows who he’s rooting for, too. The nurses have actually warned him that other patients have complained about the words and noises coming from his room during games.
Could something that makes him feel good be bad?
Davey likes the Spurs’ chances of beating the Heat, though he worries whether they’ll be able to stop LeBron James if he decides to take it to another level. Then again, the Heat don’t really have an answer for Tony Parker or the Spurs’ bench either.
For Davey, who suspects he’ll out of the hospital in a week or so, being able to watch the Spurs win a title would be great.
Being able to do so without waking the ward and alarming the nurses would be the best.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.