A wheelchair-bound basketball fan said he owed his life to the quick-thinking actions of his team’s star player who plucked him from the ground and protected him from a crazy crowd.
Storming towards the players as the buzzer sounded for Saturday’s stunning 84-76 win for North Carolina State over No.1 Duke in Raleigh, die-hard fan Will Privette suddenly found himself trapped in the middle of a crowd of hundreds. Coming to his rescue, six-foot-nine C.J. Leslie spotted the stricken fan, scooped him up from the floor making sure he didn’t get crushed to death: ‘He held me for a couple of minutes. I was screaming and yelling,’ said the fortunate basketball fan.
Leslie, 21, pushed his way through the mass of jumping bodies, saying, ‘Get back, get back,’ before he reached Privette, 21, who is studying communications at North Carolina State.
The star forward said he held the hapless fan ‘like how you would hold a baby’ until he knew that he was safe. At which point Privette started to pat Leslie on his head to congratulate him on the victory, screaming ‘Woooo! Let’s go!’
‘I just saw him there and people were surging in around him,’ said Leslie, who scored 25 points in the game. ‘I knew it could end up a bad situation.’ After he was sat down court-side, Privette waited to speak to Leslie, telling him, ‘Thank you, thank you for helping – saving my life, really.’
Concerned commentator’s at ESPN were relieved to see Leslie holding onto Privette after seeing him disappear into the crowd at the end of Saturday’s game. ESPN commentator Dick Vitale expressed concern as he spotted the unmistakable sight of a wheelchair being pushed straight into the middle of the chaos.
Privette himself managed to record first-person video (seen below) of the first panicked seconds as he was wheeled onto the court by N.C. State student body president Andy Walsh – a decision he described as ‘the dumbest thing’ he’s done in college. Privette has been in a wheelchair his entire life and is known around campus as the basketball team’s biggest fan
Thousands of people started to send him messages through social networking asking if he was OK. Now known as the ‘wheelchair kid who rushed the court’, Privette is from Zebulon, North Carolina, which is 20-miles from Raleigh and North Carolina State.
He was born with leg deformities and has been confined to a wheelchair all his life and the massive basketball fan has only missed one home N.C. State game in three and a half years at college. ‘Andy and I waited the last 50 seconds of the game on the court in the corner. As the buzzer (went) or probably before, we rushed the court,’ said Privette to USA Today.
‘We went straight to the middle, which probably was better because if we’d have gone to the side we would have gotten hit worse. ‘It was like a wave. It toppled me over. I fell out of my wheelchair. I was on the ground, and I had my phone in my hand — I was trying to film the event — and the phone flew out of my hands and my glasses flew off my face. I was on the ground. I was like, ‘OK, what am I going to do now?’
‘I’m loving it. I’m glad this happened my senior year. It’s a great way to go out.’