Kim Perrot's six-month battle with brain and lung cancer came to an end today, as the popular point guard of the WNBA's Houston Comets died with friends and family by her side at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
Perrot, 32, had been a symbol of courage since her illness was diagnosed on Feb. 19 and surgery to remove a brain tumor was performed weeks later.
She made more than 100 public appearances, though none on the basketball court for the team she directed to the first two WNBA championships.
Friends and family promise that dream will endure in the wake of Perrot's death shortly before 3 p.m.
Too sick to play the game she loved, Perrot spoke at public schools and wrote a column in the Houston Chronicle's teen supplement.
After going to Tijuana, Mexico, for alternative treatment for her cancer, team owner Leslie Alexander arranged for Perrot to be flown back to Houston late last week after doctors discovered the cancer had once again spread into her brain.
Among those at the bedside today was Perrot's closest friend on the Comets, Cynthia Cooper. Their teammates received the news after arriving in Los Angeles, where they were to play the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday night.
A night earlier, the Comets defeated the Phoenix Mercury, 70-60, in the final home game of the season.
The game was a bittersweet experience for players and fans alike. They wore white ribbons above their hearts, and many displayed poster-board signs expressing their affection for Perrot.
Teammates chose to mourn Perrot's illness in private, closing their locker-room doors to media after games on Monday and Wednesday.
Veteran Tammy Jackson was appointed team spokesman and said the Comets were playing especially hard because of Perrot.
"We have pain in our hearts for Kim," Jackson said. "We're doing what she would want us to do."
The WNBA playoffs begin Tuesday, with the Comets favored to win a third-straight championship. Coach Van Chancellor said the title chase is trivialized.
"Kim has shown me how unimportant a three-peat is in the great scheme of life," Chancellor said.
Jackson said winning a third championship is more important than ever.
"Kim wouldn't want us to look at it any other way," Jackson said. "Kim is with us in spirit. We're winning it for her. We're winning it for us and for the Houston community."
Often overshadowed by the flashy play of stars Sheryl Swoopes and Cooper, Perrot was a favorite of fans and teammates for her diligence and scrappy play.
"Kim Perrot is held in such high regard because people can relate to her," Chancellor said before Wednesday night's game.