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Faith in Humanity: Former NBA star aids ailing friend, captures middle school state title

Penny Hardaway was once an All-American. Four times, he was an NBA All-Star. But he was never a champion — not with his alma mater, Memphis State, nor with the Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks or Miami Heat. Not until he joined the Lester Lions did he finally capture that elusive championship.

Coming to the side of his ailing childhood friend, Hardaway helped coach the Memphis middle school basketball team to a state championship in 2011.

His friend, Desmond Merriweather, had coached the team but needed help after he was diagnosed with colon cancer. Merriweather passed away last month.

Hardaway and Merriweather grew up playing basketball at Memphis area parks and both went on to become high school stars and college-level players. After Merriweather woke from a medically-induced coma in 2010, he scribbled “1 Cent” on a piece of paper by his hospital bed, requesting Penny’s help with the team he had to leave behind as he recovered from the disease which would ultimately take his life.

After Penny answered the call, the reunited duo coached Lester to glory. And they didn’t stop there. Merriweather continued to fight off the cancer and they went on to win a second title in 2012.