Benefield: Harlem Globetrotter's help gives 10-year-old double amputee a shot
Lilly Biagini loves basketball, but doesn’t have the best jump shot. That’s because the 10-year-old can’t jump.
“It’s just because I have no knees,” she said. “When little kids jump, they have to use knees to jump.”
Biagini, born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita — a rare congenital condition that left her without leg joints and that made it impossible to walk — had both legs amputated below the hip four years ago. Losing her legs, and gaining a pair of prosthetics, gave her freedom, she said.
But it didn’t give her the ability to jump, so while she dribbles and passes the ball, shooting hoops was one of the few things that had eluded the fourth-grader who swims, snowboards and rides horses.
Harlem Globetrotter Zeus McClurkin, who met Lilly a year ago just after the Tubbs fire destroyed Lilly’s Coffey Park home, reunited this month with the fourth-grader in Texas, where she is now living. Known for his dunking prowess, McClurkin is also known for something else — he owns the Guinness World Record for most bounced three-pointers in a minute.
Why not try that shot with Lilly?
“I had the ball in my hand, he said, ‘Bounce it as hard as I can.’ I actually made it in the hoop,” she said. “It was the first time ever. Oh my gosh, I was so proud of myself.”
Two points for Lilly.
That shot was a long time coming. It’s been a long year for Lilly Biagini and her mom, Jessica.
On the night of Oct. 8 and into the early morning hours of Oct. 9, when the Tubbs fire roared through Santa Rosa last year, Lilly and her mom lost more than the home they shared with Jessica’s parents.
Having raced to Jessica’s grandmother’s home to make sure she had gotten out, Jessica and Lilly were driving along Stony Point Road, trying to reconnect with Jessica’s parents.
“I was in my jammies, no socks, no shoes,” Jessica Biagini said. “I didn’t even have glasses on.”
It was terrifying and chaotic.
“Lilly is saying, ‘Mommy! Mommy!’ and I said, ‘Stop, I need to concentrate,’” Biagini said. “She said, ‘You need to stop,’ she grabbed my face — while I’m driving — and said, ‘You forgot my legs.’”
Biagini, who still did not know where her parents were and was already in a state of panic, sank even lower.
“I had that ‘Oh my God, I’m a big, fat failure’” feeling, she said. “She is the one that turned to me and said, ‘It doesn’t matter, we have each other.’”
But truth be told, it did matter. A lot.
Lilly’s prosthetic legs were incredibly expensive. And more than that, they gave her freedom.
Before she had her legs removed when she was 6 years old, she got around on her hands and used a wheelchair. Then she saw, for the first time, a man walking with prosthetic legs.
“She said, ‘Mom, I want to walk,’” Biagini said. “I said, ‘This is the way God made you,’ and she said, ‘Well, God is wrong, so I’m going to show you.’”
Biagini clearly remembers the consultation that was held with multiple surgeons. One of them gently asked her daughter, “Lilly, how do you want to go forward?”