Name another profession so hardwired to believe in impending good luck despite an occurrence of misfortune.
Weaver already rolled the dice with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in his mid-20s, resulting in two surgeries, a bout with pneumonia and radiation treatments that ultimately drove the disease into remission. It is skin cancer that has Weaver, a 48-year-old professional sports gambler, facing his mortality again 22 years later.
“Survive and advance – that’s a basketball moniker and my life moniker,” said Weaver, who will be competing at Hoopfest for the 30th consecutive year June 29-30 in downtown Spokane. “You have to have a strong will to play basketball and another one to live. I’m working hard at it.”
Weaver’s streak of consecutive Hoopfest appearances was in its relative infancy when he was diagnosed with lymphoma shortly after playing in the 3-on-3 basketball tournament in 1997.
“I had a little flu and didn’t feel real good,” Weaver said. “I brought my ‘C’ game, but that was nothing out of the ordinary. I had a lump on my neck. My wife kept saying, ‘Go in, go in, go in.’ I went in, and it was lymphoma.”
Weaver said he was declared in remission in December 1997. That gave him time to recover and get in shape to play in Hoopfest again a half-year later.
“I came back able to play in 1998, and we made it to the championship game in our bracket,” he said. “That is special to me. We didn’t win it, but we made it and that was cool.”
Weaver recalled the formative years of Hoopfest – plywood backboards and rule changes – as the tournament tried to gain traction locally, particularly among businesses downtown. He said their eventual support has allowed the tournament to grow into a long-standing, widely recognizable event for the city.
“Once that happened, that was the key,” he said.
Weaver has played long enough to outlast his original group of friends and teammates. He has teamed up with his father, Dan, and his brother, Chad. He is headed into this year’s tournament on a team anchored by his three sons: Jess, Eric and Sam.
“To say it’s special is an understatement,” Weaver said of his Hoopfest experience coming full circle. “The older I get, the more I feel like life is magical, and Hoopfest is right along with that. That being said, I haven’t picked up a ball since the last Hoopfest, so it’s going to be interesting.
“We used to really prepare. It’s like horses have three races to prepare for the Breeders’ Cup. Now it’s just survive.”
Weaver admitted it is important to him to continue his run playing in Hoopfest.
“Especially now,” he said. “My ultimate goal in life is to be the oldest, longest-living cancer survivor. I want all 44 of these people (who have played every Hoopfest) to do this every year with me. But I want to be the last one standing. … Optimistically, I want to play with my kids’ kids.”
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