In 2008, while she was a budding soccer star at UCLA, a man caught Lauren Cheney’s eye.

He was young and handsome, obviously an athlete like she was. Was he a football player? Baseball player? She had to know.

Lauren thought he looked familiar. “Are you,” she asked, “Darren Collison?” She meant the famous point guard of the Bruins basketball team, who by then was on his fast track to the NBA.

“No,” the man replied.

“Don’t worry,” Lauren said. “You’re cuter than Darren is.”


So it was that a romance began. Lauren had in fact spotted Collison’s teammate, Jrue Holiday, a local Los Angeles baller setting the early stages for his own professional basketball career.

It was a perfect life … until it wasn’t

The couple began dating, and while Lauren continued her excellence in soccer, playing pro for FC Kansas City and internationally for the U.S. women’s national team, Jrue did the same, getting drafted in 2009 to the NBA, where he now plays for the New Orleans Pelicans. They married in 2013.

It was the perfect life. Until, suddenly, it wasn’t.

In 2016, a year after she won her second women’s World Cup title, Lauren was diagnosed with a tumor on her brain. Lauren was also pregnant, and worse than her own health being in jeopardy, the tumor was also believed to have put her unborn baby at risk.

It rocked them, a charmed life now upended, but it would not tear them apart.

The Holidays had their baby girl in Sept., 2016, happy and healthy. But now there was the matter of Lauren’s own fate.


She was scheduled for surgery to remove the tumor in October, yet that was also the month Jrue’s NBA season was to begin. He would be on the road almost as much as he was home. With a newborn girl, and a wife who would be facing serious recovery, Jrue had a difficult choice to make.

The right choice

He picked Lauren. The point guard reached an agreement with the Pelicans to take an indefinite leave from the team to care for his wife and their baby.

“The most important thing for Jrue to do right now is be with his wife and family,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said at the time.

“Every one of our coaches and players understands what Lauren and Jrue are going through, and they know we’re behind them 100 per cent.”

It was, in the end, the right choice. Lauren’s surgery was a success, and with Jrue by her side, her recovery went smoothly.

 ‘My family comes before basketball.’

Jrue rejoined the Pelicans on Nov. 18, scoring 21 points on efficient shooting in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers. After the season, Jrue re-signed with New Orleans, on a deal that will pay $126 million over five seasons.

Life has settled for the holidays. Lauren’s future in soccer is unclear, but her role as a mother and wife is decidedly less so after this serious medical scare.

Jrue, before his wife’s operation, seemed to say it best.

“My family,” he said, “comes before basketball.”