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Jewish Journal

Sports stars celebrate medical champs

by Adam Wills

June 20, 2008 | 12:38 pm

Snoop Dogg and Ray Lewis. Photo by by Thomas Neerken

Snoop Dogg and Ray Lewis. Photo by by Thomas Neerken

It was an ESPN Zone on ‘roids when more than 1,800 sports stars and fans gathered at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on June 1 for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s 23rd annual Sports Spectacular, which raised more than $1 million to benefit the hospital’s Medical Genetics Institute and a fellowship endowment program.

As notables like boxer Laila Ali and former Laker point guard Gary Payton made their red-carpet entrance, kids practiced their slap shot and three-pointers in a nearby play area. With the children otherwise occupied, adults were free to wander the silent auction, where memorabilia included a football and N.Y. Giants helmet autographed by Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning, a mammoth jersey from Houston Rockets center Yao Ming and a baseball signed by L.A. Dodger No. 32, Sandy Koufax.

Dinner chairs Josh Friedman and Mitch Julis, co-CEOs of asset management company Canyon Partners, helped frame the evening for the crowd. “Tonight brings together the champions of sports to celebrate the champions of medicine,” Friedman said.

CBS sportscaster and emcee Jim Hill got the festivities rolling with fellow honorary co-chairs NBA veteran John Salley, three-time Super Bowl champ Jerry Rice and hip-hop star Snoop Dogg, who joked about the tailgate-inspired cuisine of burgers and chips: “All the food is free—psych.”

The evening’s first honoree, Baltimore Ravens linebacker and nine-time pro-bowler Ray Lewis, reflected on his own charitable passion, a foundation that aids disadvantaged youth.

“One emotion I can never get away from is caring and giving back,” he said.
As surfer Laird Hamilton introduced his volleyball superstar wife and honoree, Gabrielle Reece, he talked about how athletes should act ethically on and off the field—a possible dig on Lewis, who was indicted on murder charges stemming from a double homicide after a Super Bowl party in 2000, but pled guilty to obstruction of justice charges and received probation. Reece, who said there are games—Super Bowls—“and then there’s life,” then brought the focus back to the work of Cedars.

“It’s me who is honoring all of you,” she said.

After NBA point guard Baron Davis received his award, NY Giants defensive end Michael Strahan took to the stage and confessed that he was nervous because his parents were in the audience.

“Working together—teamwork and belief—you can accomplish anything in life,” he said of Cedars’ efforts.

With the evening winding down and the crowd starting to thin, Cedars brought out a surprise honoree—Derek Fisher, starting point guard for the Western Conference champion Lakers, who paid a touching tribute to his daughter, Tatum, and wife, Candace.

Fisher, who began his career in Los Angeles, left the Utah Jazz last year and gave up $8 million to sign a three-year, $14 million contract with the Lakers. The reason: Tatum had retinoblastoma, a cancerous tumor in her left eye. He and Candace felt the ongoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai would be best following an operation to remove the tumor at a New York hospital, where Tatum was the 10th child to undergo the procedure.

“She’s doing great at this moment,” he said. “Our doctors have shared that they don’t think there’s a cancer cell left in her body.”

In addition to thanking his wife, Fisher said none of his children would be in the room today without Cedars-Sinai doctors.

“The real recognition goes to people who don’t get their names in the newspaper and in the news,” he said. “You are the real heroes.”

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