CHARLOTTE, N.C. - More than two dozen Union County students got the surprise of a lifetime from the co-owner of the Brooklyn Nets.
It started with a question by sixth-grader Kenton Gargus, which was followed by laughs.
“I said, ‘Can you give me All-Star tickets?’ And he said, ‘Well, I myself am begging [NBA Commissioner] Adam Silver to give me tickets, but I’ll see what I can do,” Gargus told Eyewitness News anchor Liz Foster.
The question was to multi-billionaire Joseph Tsai when he visited Marvin Elementary School's Mandarin immersion program Friday. The Brooklyn Nets co-owner delivered.
“Wow, he actually gave us tickets,” Gargus said.
Tsai, who's a co-founder of the Alibaba Group -- China's version of Amazon, met David Smith last year when the Union County fifth-grader served as a ball boy for a Yale University game in China.
Tsai was so impressed Smith could speak Mandarin well that he said he wanted to visit Smith's school if he was ever in Charlotte. He did just that right before the NBA All-Star Weekend.
“I thought he was too busy to come to my school,” Smith said.
Smith served as emcee as Tsai spoke to kids in the language program and called on his peers to ask Tsai questions.
His basketball teammate, Gargus, was not initially going to ask for tickets.
“I was originally going to ask for D'Angelo Russell’s cellphone number because Joseph Tsai is the owner of the Brooklyn Nets, so I figured he’d have it, but then I decided to change my question on the bus ride over.”
By the end of that day, the businessman delivered not just for one or two kids. He also got 30 tickets for the students to go to the NBA All-Star Game Sunday night at Spectrum Center in uptown Charlotte.
“That was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Smith said.
“It was really fun because you get to see the greats of basketball playing in one arena,” Gargus said of the experience.
Kenton's father, Keith Gargus, told Channel 9 he doesn't think the kids realize how big of a deal it was to go to the All-Star Game but is thankful to Tsai for delivering the once-in-a-lifetime experience for the kids.
“The generosity is just unmatched. It was really special,” the father said.
The lucky students are now sending Tsai thank-you cards written in Mandarin.
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