Aameer Sahi loved basketball. Dearly. It was his passion and his love. Family, friends and basketball went hand in hand.
The St. John native played with his friends and brother, Anmol, at Forest Ridge Academy in Schererville from the fourth to eighth grade. When the school started open gyms on Saturdays, Aameer and Anmol were the first ones there. Even into college, he’d show up for pickup games.
Sahi died Aug. 12 after a battle with cancer. He was 21 and a men’s student basketball manager at DePaul University, where he was studying finance.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the place — or an open seat — for his services Aug. 15 at Burns Funeral Home in Crown Point. Former and current classmates, family, friends, DePaul coach Dave Leitao, his staff and players huddled for a final time with Sahi.
“Aameer is family, and as part of all families, we are beyond heartbroken,” Leitao said. “While he has (gone) to be with God, he leaves all of us with a gift of how to fight, to give, to laugh and to love.
“Each person who knew him walked away from a visit feeling like we just received a gift. Many have shared and been touched by the most special of young men.”
Sahi was diagnosed in childhood with NF type 1, a condition characterized by skin pigmentation changes and tumor growth along nerves. It wasn’t until a pickup basketball game at DePaul in 2017 when he felt leg pain. Sahi underwent numerous surgeries, including two to remove tumors in the pelvic area that caused horrible pain. Neurofibromatosis is uncommon and, according to the American Cancer Society, only 5 percent of patients who have it will develop a sarcoma.
Sahi was a popular figure at Forest Ridge Academy with peers and teachers alike. He played soccer, but basketball was his first love. He would shoot 3-pointers — even ill-advised ones — because he loved the long shot and joy when they went in. He went on to attend La Lumiere School in LaPorte, where his love for basketball continued as part of the program there.
Sahi knew he’d never go to the NBA, but he wanted to be around the game all the time. That’s why he chased the dream to be around the Blue Demons’ program at DePaul.
“He was definitely one of the most light-hearted people I know — someone who could put a smile on anyone’s face at any time,” said childhood friend Sasa Labovic, a senior on the DePaul men’s soccer team.
“Aameer was also one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met, so kind and warm, but he would also call things how he saw them. He even did that until his last very days. If you wanted to know how he felt you could just ask!”
While being taken care of at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Sahi received constant visits from family and friends and members of the DePaul basketball family. Supporters wore their “I Know A Fighter” shirts with #SahiStrong on the back — even at his funeral by the request of his father, Sonny.
However, this past week the biggest visit came via FaceTime with Sahi’s idol, former Bulls standout Derrick Rose.
“When (Rose) called, he chased us all out of the room,” brother Anmol said with a smile.
“DRose was his inspiration. Aameer always said, ‘Look at how many knee injuries he’s had and come back from.’ (Aameer) was determined to fight to the end.”