CLEVELAND --- Saturday is a special day for Tristan Thompson.
Whenever he returns to Cleveland, where he helped the Cavaliers break a 52-year-old championship drought for the city in 2016, it brings back fond memories. That he’s doing so with the Chicago Bulls, long an archrival of those Cavaliers teams, in a game replete with postseason seeding implications heightens the stakes.
But Saturday is special for a bigger reason as well. Thompson will sign and donate the sneakers and game jersey he wears to one winner who enters his sweepstakes to benefit Epilepsy Foundation.
Saturday is “Purple Day,” founded in 2008 by then-9-year-old Cassidy Megan of Canada to help raise awareness and education about epilepsy. And Thompson’s younger brother, Amari, 16, has epilepsy.
“My younger brother fights each and every day,” Tristan said following the Bulls’ shootaround Saturday morning. “Most 16-year-olds can enjoy life and have the freedom and be able to experience things with their peers. It’s harder for him.
“He motives me. Why not keep working each day? There’s no reason for me not to get up and push to be not only a better basketball player but a better human being.”
Thompson, who has “His Brother’s Keeper” tattooed across his chest, long has been active in efforts to heighten awareness, education and funding for epilepsy. In 2013, Tristan established The Amari Thompson fund, which benefits Epilepsy Toronto.
That’s where Tristan Thompson was born and raised and where Amari still lives with their mother.
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, 3.4 million people in the United States live with epilepsy. The neurological disorder can cause seizures, which Tristan said have thankfully dissipated for his younger brother. Still, Amari attends regular physical therapy to try to help him move more independently.
“It’s a process,” Tristan said. “Some days are better than others. We got the seizures down. That was definitely scary and tough, especially for my Mom. She’d be scared to leave him alone even for 10 minutes just to grab groceries. The fact that we’ve calmed those seizures down and kept to a controlled basis has been huge for our family.”
Tristan is the oldest of four boys.
“Everyone has their motivation,” Tristan said. “For me, it’s my brother and my family. My Mom has had to sacrifice each day as well. She’s had to watch a child for basically 24-hour care. That takes her away from her own life and freedom.
“Most parents who have kids in the NBA, their parents are able to go to Vegas or Atlantic City and go to islands. For her, it’s not always the same. I use that as my driving force to try to make both their lives easier.”
For more information on how to win Thompson’s game-worn donations, go to www.epilepsy.com/slamdunk. No contribution is needed to enter, however, those who do make one will receive bonus entries. The fundraising effort runs until April 5 and 100 percent of the proceeds will be donated to the foundation.
For more information on the Epilepsy Foundation, visit www.epilepsy.com.