By: Will Burchfield
Tony Smith, a 29 year old living with a debilitating muscle disease, has been a Pistons fan his entire life.
“I don’t know a better Pistons fan than Tony,” said his physical therapist Betsy Howell.
There certainly isn’t a tougher one.
Smith has battled centronuclear myopathy since the day he was born, refusing to give into the disease’s crippling effects.
“Most of the kids at his age died in their first year of life from respiratory failure,” Howell said. “Tony, as far as I know, is the oldest survivor in the United States.”
Howell met Smith when he was nine months old. She remembers him twirling a nerf basketball between his feet as he was lying in his crib in the hospital.
“I think little basketballs flow through his veins,” Howell said.
Earlier this month, at the Pistons annual Meet The Team event, Smith fulfilled a lifelong dream of meeting the players and getting to ask them questions.
He asked Reggie Jackson what it’s like to play against the Chicago Bulls. He asked Stan Van Gundy if he preferred coaching Shaquille O’Neal and Dwayne Wade in Miami or Dwight Howard in Orlando.
“It was just heaven on earth for him,” said his mother Kathy.
Smith’s experience with the Pistons was captured in the following video. It is heartwarming, inspiring and certainly worth watching.
The Pistons held their Meet The Team event on Oct. 4 at The Palace. They open the season on Oct. 26.