Sophomore Banks Graham knew something was up when he walked into a packed auditorium of students at Polytechnic High School.
The 16-year-old and his mother, Edna Graham, were led on stage as music blared and several cameras lined up in front of a giant overhead screen.
Students were jumping in their seats.
“We were just told it was a pep rally,’’ one said.
Moments later, a pre-recorded video showing the image of Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant flashed on the screen.
“What’s up, Poly High?” Bryant said. “I’ve got a very special message for my man Banks … I can’t wait to have you in January at one of our practices, man … I look forward to meeting you and making your wish come true.
“I know it can’t be easy to be a Laker fan in Texas,’’ Bryant told Graham. “I look forward to seeing you in January, my man.”
At the Wednesday pep rally, Graham, who has sickle cell anemia, was granted his wish by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization that grants wishes to children like Banks Graham, who have life-threatening illnesses. Sickle cell is an inherited blood disorder that is characterized by an abnormality in the oxygen-carrying molecule in red blood cells. The disease can cause severe infections, stroke and attacks of pain.
Wish grantor Corrine Revsbeck told the audience at Poly that she met Graham several months ago.
“In that initial meeting, I learned Banks is very kind, strong and grateful young man who loves sports, particularly basketball,” Revsbeck said. “And his favorite player is Kobe Bryant.”
After the unveiling of his wish — to coach the Lakers during a practice — Graham told his peers that he was a “Laker fan from Day One.”
He is expected to meet with the Los Angeles team Jan. 26-27.
Edna Graham then addressed the audience: “This is a lot to take in today … but God is good.”
After Bryant’s video was shown, a second video showed sports anchors from ESPN’s Sports Center announcing that Graham would also attend a Washington Wizards-Lakers game on Jan. 27.
Among the officials attending the event Wednesday were school trustee Tobi Jackson, state Rep. Ramon Romero, D-Fort Worth, Mayor Betsy Price and interim school Superintendent Pat Linares.
The event turned into a kind of pep rally, after all.
“Good afternoon, Poly Parrots! Is this the best school?” Linares addressed the lively crowd of students.
“Yes!” the crowd yelled back.
“If you continue to dream, you can achieve those realities, if you continue to work hard. Students at Poly, I want to say congratulations for being some of the best students in the FWISD.”
Price said the event was more than about “one young man’s wish.” It was a recognition of the achievements of students at Poly High School.
“Fort Worth ISD is doing a wonderful job,’’ Price said.
Price then spoke to Graham: “We appreciate what you do and how hard you’re working to make your school better.”
Yamil Berard, 817-390-7705