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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Basketball tournament to raise funds for ALS in memory of Chris Fagan scheduled for August 3 at Union


“The Second Lesson: Make Your Final​ Dribble the Most ⁣Powerful”

Chris Fagan imparted‌ this ​wisdom to ‍his daughter, Kate, during their solitary⁤ practice sessions in the grand, old‍ Memorial Field House, a basketball ⁢gym located on the Union College campus.

The essence‌ of‍ this lesson was to⁣ put a little extra effort into the ​last⁣ dribble before a⁤ jump ⁤shot, ensuring ‌a seamless transition into the ​shooting‍ motion as⁣ the ball bounces⁢ back.

Chris Fagan, a revered figure in the Capital‍ Region basketball ⁤scene, who ‍had an illustrious career at Catholic Central, Colgate University, and later ‌in Europe, was‌ a firm believer in this ​principle.⁤ Even when he‍ was diagnosed⁤ with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis⁣ (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ⁣he maintained his​ love for the game until his ⁤last breath on December 4, 2019.

Following her father’s footsteps, Kate Fagan,‌ a star at Niskayuna High and the ⁢University of ⁤Colorado, and a professional player for two ⁤years, has organized The Big C 3-on-3 Tournament on Aug. 3. The tournament will take place in the same gym where she and her ‍father spent ⁢countless hours⁢ practicing and watching Union games.

The tournament aims ⁣to raise funds ⁣for ALS research ⁢and treatment, while also honoring the legacy of “The Big C” himself. Chris Fagan always​ advised his ⁤daughter to “keep your sneakers​ in the trunk,” ready for an impromptu pickup‍ game.

“As everyone who has been touched by ALS says, it’s‌ not an incurable disease, it’s an underfunded one,” Kate Fagan said. ‍“And anyone who has been touched by ‌ALS, you’re ⁢so passionate about it because you’ve seen first-hand‌ the devastation, and you just want to do everything in your‌ power to​ get people to understand what it is​ and to raise⁤ money to get help for anyone who is living with it right now⁣ or will be diagnosed with it.

“That’s certainly where⁤ my family has⁤ landed after watching ⁣my dad⁢ go through it.”

“Make Your Last ⁤Dribble the Hardest” and “Keep Your Sneakers‌ in the⁣ Trunk” are⁢ two of the lessons‍ interspersed among the chapters of Fagan’s book⁤ “All the‍ Colors​ Came ⁢Out,” which serves as “Kate’s love letter to her dad,” as her mom,​ Kathy writes in the Forward.

By extension, through a detailed account of what Chris and his family endured during his ⁣physical​ deterioration from a disease with​ a life expectancy of 2-5 years after diagnosis, it also puts a human face on the grueling process in which the patient gradually ‌loses motor function.

The Lou Gehrig and Steve Gleason stories have been well-documented, and the Ice Bucket⁢ Challenge increased awareness of ALS when it went viral on social media in the summer of 2014. But ALS can still remain a mystery to some, and‌ the⁢ Fagans want The ‌Big C 3-on-3⁤ Tournament to direct some extra attention⁣ on the disease⁤ while also raising money for the St. ⁣Peter’s‍ Regional ⁣ALS‌ Center in ‍Albany​ and the ALS Therapy Development Institute.

“I still ⁢think some people‌ think it’s similar to MS‍ [multiple sclerosis], ⁣another horrible disease, and they don’t understand⁢ the intense brevity ⁣and debilitation and the 100% death rate of ALS,” Kate Fagan​ said. “Understanding how just ⁢devastating ⁣the disease is would motivate‍ more⁢ people to want to figure out ‍some sort of treatment.”

Besides the loss of almost all motor control — Chris Fagan ​communicated by ⁤blinking ​with one eye for “yes” and the ​other for “no” toward the ⁤end of ⁣his life — the patient⁤ has to face impending ⁣mortality in a state of physical decline.

Then ‌there’s ‍the family, who has⁣ to witness it while supporting the⁢ patient‍ in any way ⁣possible, ‍which‍ can at times seem ‍like an exercise in futility.

“Nothing I read or could find prepared me for the brutality of it,” said Kate Fagan, a​ New York ‌Times best-selling author who⁢ is also ⁢well known for‌ her journalistic work for ESPN and Sports Illustrated. “There were times when I was writing this⁣ book where I thought, ‘Aw, you know, I’m not ‌going to say ⁤that or‍ write that,’ ⁤these⁤ true ⁤thoughts that‍ I had.

“But‌ then I was like, I think you​ have⁣ to, ​because I⁢ don’t want ​people who are now ‍living with the disease or are ⁢with somebody they love living with the disease, to have these thoughts​ and they think they’re monsters for having them.”

Ultimately, though, “the main ⁣driving force was feeling like I wanted ⁣to share ‌this really dynamic ⁤relationship ‍with my dad,” she ⁤said.

That spirit will‍ be a ‌driving force behind The Big C⁣ 3-on-3 Tournament.

So get your sneakers out​ of‍ the ​trunk.

There ‌will‍ be a limit of 16 teams in 18+ and 55+ age divisions, and you can sign up at ⁢thebigc3on3.com, which also has ⁣a link to a GoFundMe page for those who‍ want to ‌contribute without ​playing in the tournament.

Fagan hopes the inaugural tournament‍ will be a launching point — a hard last dribble, if you ​will‌ — for an ⁤event that can grow in future years.

She hasn’t ⁤played competitively in​ about ​a decade, but expects to be on a ‍team, along‍ with a former teammate on the NWBL ‍Colorado Chill and maybe ⁤— maybe — even former Shenendehowa and Duke star Jen Scanlon.

“Maybe ​she ⁢can be our third, and then we’ll be a ⁢bunch ‌of old ladies getting run over ⁤by some 20-year-olds,” Fagan said with a laugh.

Either way, the nostalgic pull will​ be a powerful one‌ for⁣ her, in a‌ place ⁤where her dad ‌taught her so much.

“Whatever the smell is in that fieldhouse is … my youth,” she said.

Jack Sullivan
Jack Sullivan
Jack Sullivan, an informed and passionate sports reporter, is a former college athlete with a degree in Sports Communication from Ithaca College. Go Bombers!
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