KBL fans find the game healing

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KBL fans find the game healing

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Yu Gyeong-ok (left) and Kim Min-seok (right) meet at the Korean Basketball League semifinals between Wonju Dongbu Promy and the Incheon ET Land Elephants on March 23. Yu supports Promy, while Kim is a fan of the Elephants. By Choi Seung-shik

For many, sports serve as one of the best forms of entertainment. But for two basketball fans watching the Korean Basketball League semifinals on Monday, it’s about more than entertainment: It symbolizes overcoming disability and curing a disease.

Before the game that day at Samsan World Gymnasium in Incheon, the forward for the Incheon ET Land Elephants, Lee Hyun-ho, gently tapped a man in a baseball cap sitting in the front row. The man, Kim Min-seok, responded with a smile.

Kim is a big fan of the Elephants, and Lee is his favorite player, while the tap between them is a signal.

Kim is blind - he lost his sight when he was 6 years old following surgery to remove a brain tumor - so when Lee plays, he taps Kim’s baseball cap to let him know he’s going onto the court.

Since the operation, Kim’s physical growth and intellectual development have remained at the level of a middle school student. But he loves basketball, which was a constant for him during his cancer treatment.

His mother confirmed her son’s love for the game.

“Since about five years ago, his condition has worsened, but he’s still happy going to see a game,” she said.

For the past 18 years, Kim has come to the gymnasium to see the Elephants’ home games, where he “listens” to the action on the court. He recognizes how the game is going based on his mother’s descriptions and his memories watching basketball as a child. The music played during a game, comments by the announcer and the cheers from the crowd also help him follow.

While basketball has helped Kim in his fight against cancer, it’s fair to say the sport helped Yu Gyeong-ok overcome her illness.

The 64-year-old has supported Wonju Dongbu Promy for the past 13 years and is a huge fan of the team’s superstar, Kim Joo-sung.

Yu was diagnosed with stomach cancer eight years ago, but it never stopped her from coming to watch Promy’s games during treatment.

Recently, her doctor let her know she was cancer-free.

“My daughters tell me Promy’s good performance is much better for my health than any expensive medicine,” Yu said. “Joo-sung is the best player and Promy is the best for me.”

BY KIM JI-HAN AND SONG JI-HOON [nam.yoonseo@joongang.co.kr]

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