C.J. Leslie's lift of a fan lifts the spirit

January 14, 2013 

N.C. State’s C.J. Leslie made great plays in Saturday’s historic win over No. 1 and previously undefeated Duke, but the junior forward’s most remarkable move came after fans rushed the court in celebration.

Among the converging fans was N.C. State student Will Privette, who was being pushed in his wheelchair by the student body president, Andy Walsh. They were among the first to reach center court, where they were immediately swamped by a red and white tsunami.

Privette’s chair toppled, and he fell out. He tried to keep recording the event with his phone. That got knocked away. His glasses flew off his face. Privette’s joy turned to fear. He thought he was about to get crushed, he told The News & Observer.

That’s when Leslie saw Privette, whom he knows from around campus. Leslie pushed his way through the mass of jumping, bumping bodies, saying, “Get back, get back.” He got to Privette, who has used a wheelchair all his life, and picked up the senior communications major from Zebulon.

Privette, whose wild roll into the celebration at the PNC Arena became an instant Internet and social media sensation, told USA Today that the 6-foot-9 Leslie held him “like how you would hold a baby.” Knowing he was safe, Privette patted the beaming State star on the head and added his voice to the fans’ roar, screaming “Woooooo! Let’s go!”

Someone brought over Privette’s banged-up chair, and Leslie put him back into it for the rest of the sweetest State celebration in a very long time. Afterward, Privette said, he waited around to tell Leslie, “Thank you, thank you for helping – saving my life, really.”

Leslie and the Wolfpack are soaring into the rarified heights of college basketball, but Leslie’s post-game assist reminds the team and fans alike that we rise the highest when we bend to lift another.

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