Skip to main content
Home » Cancer Care » Former 76ers President Pat Croce Preaches Positivity While Battling Cancer
Cancer Care

Former 76ers President Pat Croce Preaches Positivity While Battling Cancer

Photo: Courtesy of American Cancer Society

A lightning rod of personality as the president of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, Pat Croce largely stayed out of the public eye after leaving his post in 2001.

A cancer diagnosis, and a partnership with the American Cancer Society, has him bringing his wisdom and positivity to others battling the disease.

Croce was noted for his brash style and optimism during his stint as the president of the 76ers, where he brought the team from last place in his first year (1996) to an NBA finals appearance in his final season.

Some time after his tenure ended, he went on a lengthy media hiatus, essentially making no public appearances.

“I just totally disappeared out of the public eye,” Croce said. “I didn’t do any interviews.”

Then a funny thing happened. In 2020, he developed a sort of rash on his chest.

“I thought I had poison ivy,” Croce said. “I have this severe itching on my sternum, on my chest bone, and it’s really bothering me overnight. So I put some steroidal cream on it — nothing.”

He enlisted the opinion of his dermatologist, who ordered a biopsy. A few weeks later, in November, he got a call.

“She says, ‘Pat, you have T-cell lymphoma,’” Croce said. “I said, ‘What? I have cancer? Okay, what are we gonna do about it?’”

He says things moved pretty quickly from there — in to see the dermatologist the following Monday, then surgery on Friday.

“Once that scar healed, I had a month of radiation, and boom, I’m done,” he said.

Positive mindset

Even when confronted with his own mortality, Croce never allowed himself to get upset or feel overwhelmed by the situation.

“I never said those words, ‘I have cancer’ — my body has cancer,” he said. “The I that I am — the aware being — has nothing to do with my body.”

Still, the health scare changed him and made him want to get back out in the public eye so he could spread his message of positivity and help others in their cancer fights.

He tweeted daily messages of inspiration and positivity, but it wasn’t enough; he wanted to do more.

“I wish I could affect more people. People don’t have to suffer,” Croce said. “Buddha said pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. Now that’s 2,500 years ago, but it’s as true today as it was then.”

He got in touch with Paula Green, vice president of development for the American Cancer Society in Philadelphia, and asked what he could do to help others living with cancer.

“She goes ‘Pat, we have this program called HEALED — Health and Energy through Active Living Every Day,’” Croce said.

The HEALED movement

HEALED is a movement designed to help people live healthier and more active lives while raising critical funds for cancer research.

75 percent of people diagnosed with cancer are less active than they were before their diagnosis, according to research from Memorial Sloan Kettering. That’s a major problem, because being physically active can reduce cancer risk, improve quality of life, and minimize the physical and psychological effects of a diagnosis.

“Every day you’re alive, you should be doing something,” Croce said. “It doesn’t matter what you do; enhance the quality and the quantity of your life.”

Since joining the movement, Croce has been hosting weekly virtual gatherings featuring guest experts and cancer survivors. They cover topics related to physical, mental, and spiritual health, and they’ve included Philadelphia sports icons like former Phillies third baseman and baseball Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt (a melanoma survivor), as well as former Philadelphia Inquirer columnist and current ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith (whose mother died in 2017 after a battle with colon cancer).

Since launching the movement earlier this year, Croce has helped HEALED raise over $2 million, all of which goes toward funding innovative science on healthy living, cancer risk reduction, and survivorship.

If you make a donation of any size, you’ll receive a black lava bead bracelet with one green bead, which, as Croce says, signifies that we’re all in this fight together.

“You have an entire divine universe with you, behind you, and this one green bead signifies that it’s more than just you,” he said. “We can all handle it together.”

To learn more or donate, visit

Next article