Professional sportsmen are often painted as spoiled and arrogant moneygrabbers who have little interest in anything or anyone but themselves. However, NBA star Jrue Holiday proved that good guys do exist in sports when he made the ultimate sacrifice for his family. Here’s a look at his story.
Jrue Holiday first came to national attention in 2009 when he was picked 17th overall in the draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. He quickly established his place as the NBA team’s starting point guard and spent four years there – a period in which he was also picked to play as a reserve guard in his debut All-Star game.
However, Jrue actually began his career with a short stint at UCLA in 2008. Also attending the college at the same time was Lauren Cheney, a soccer player who broke records there and was also awarded prestigious NSCAA/Adidas First-Team All-America honors for four consecutive years.
It was at UCLA that Jrue and Lauren first met – specifically, at a women’s basketball game in 2008. They connected when Jrue informed an inquisitive fellow spectator that he wasn’t actually Darren Collinson – and a nearby Lauren said that he was hotter than the future Sacramento Kings star regardless.
Both parties were seeing other people at the time, but they eventually began dating following Jrue’s transfer to the 76ers. Furthermore, their relationship would become both a personal and professional one when they started hosting yearly combined soccer and basketball workshops at the college where they first met.
When asked by ESPN in 2015 as to what had first attracted him to Lauren, Jrue admitted that he found her “really cute” and that he liked the idea that she was older than him. Naturally, then, a few years after their initial meeting, the NBA star asked the U.S. soccer international to marry him.
The pair eventually walked down the aisle in 2013 in picturesque style. In fact, the couple tied the knot in a touching beachside service at Malibu’s Cypress Sea Cove, which is near to where they first met
By this point, both the groom and bride’s careers were flourishing. Jrue had been selected in the first-round draft pick by the New Orleans Pelicans, while Lauren had been signed up by FC Kansas City for the first season of the National Women’s Soccer League.
Playing for teams nearly a thousand miles apart, the pair inevitably ended up spending more time separated than together. But Jrue told ESPN that they always attempted to make the best out of a difficult situation, saying, “Anytime we get to see each other, even if it’s just for a few hours, we take it.”
In fact, in 2015 Jrue spent much of his summer following Lauren around as she played for the USA in the FIFA Women’s World Cup. “To actually be here, and for the whole month, and to have the full experience is amazing. To see my wife standing there on the field during the national anthem is really special,” he told ESPN at the time.
But after adding a World Cup winner’s medal to her Olympic golds from 2008 and 2012, Lauren decided to retire from soccer at the top of her game. She admitted in an interview with NBC Sports that she had made the decision in order to spend more time with her husband and family, not to mention to experience all the things that she’d missed out on during her career.
Shortly after hanging up her soccer boots for good, in fact, Lauren fell pregnant with her first child. Sadly, though, just months before the baby was due in October 2016, she received some devastating news that turned her and Jrue’s world upside down.
The pair went public with the news in September 2016, when they revealed that Lauren had been diagnosed as having a brain tumor. Doctors made the discovery after the mom-to-be began suffering painful headaches – and although the tumor was not cancerous, its proximity to her orbital socket meant it still needed to be removed.
However, Lauren was advised to wait until after her pregnancy to undergo surgery, and the operation was subsequently scheduled for six weeks after she is due to give birth. Doctors also stated that they expected Lauren to make a full recovery and that her child would not be affected in any way.
Jrue told NOLA.com in early September that his brave wife was ready for the battle. “Lauren has her good days and her bad days; some are better than others. She’s obviously a fighter, the toughest woman I know,” he remarked with seeming pride. “That’s the reason why I married her.”
Indeed, Lauren was supported all the way by Jrue, who generated further headlines when he announced that he was putting his career on hold to care for his wife. “I’m obviously blessed to play [pro basketball] and be in the position I am in, but my wife is the most important thing in the world to me,” he added to NOLA.com.
Jrue had spent much of his time with the New Orleans Pelicans injured. But alongside All-Star forward Anthony Davis, he was expected to play a major part in the NBA’s 2016-17 season, scheduled to begin on October 25, 2016.
Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry, however, revealed in a statement that the team gave their full blessing to Jrue’s decision. “Every one of our coaches and players understands what Lauren and Jrue are going through, and they know we’re behind them 100 percent,” he said.
The Pelicans also indicated that Jrue’s approximately $11m a year salary wouldn’t be affected by his hiatus. And, to give him further support, they also revealed their plans to send a trainer to his North Carolina home in order to ensure that he was fully fit for whenever he did return to the court.
Furthermore, Jrue was applauded for his decision by several of his fellow sports stars. The NBA’s Brandon Jennings and C.J. McCollum and the NFL’s Drew Brees, for example, were just some of the big-name professionals who took to social media to offer their respect and well-wishes.
And Jrue took to Twitter to thank all the well-wishers for their kind words. A devout Christian, just like his wife, he also expressed gratitude to one particular figure. Jrue tweeted, “There is nothing in life my wife can’t conquer with Jesus Christ in her corner. Thank you all so much for your support! God bless!”