Zhaire Smith discovered the worst way he was allergic to sesame. The player of NBA he knew his body's intolerance to peanuts, but had to undergo a severe reaction after eating a sesame chicken in the training complex of the Philadelphia 76ers, to be aware of one more constraint.
This was in September 2018, when, at age 19, the point guard was preparing to make his debut in the US basketball league. A hole formed in his esophagus, and the athlete began to vomit blood. Rushed to a hospital, underwent thoracic surgery and was hospitalized for six weeks.
In the process, the Texan lost 16 kilograms, dropping from 90 kilograms to 74 kilograms, and saw the often complicated start of an NBA player become much more difficult. So far, he has struggled to make up for lost time for a grain allergy (which is common in hamburger buns), a food he can't digest.
Prior to the misfortune, the goalkeeper had caught the eye for his college basketball output, averaging 11 points and 5 rebounds and a 56% turnaround from Texas Tech. This made him the 16th position of the draft, the NBA freshman recruitment system.
Smith managed plastic plays and demonstrated his athletic prowess in the boy-friendly summer league championship, but faced the first major hurdle weeks before what would be his debut when he suffered a broken foot. Afterwards, the allergic reaction appeared that left him weakened.
Recovery would be difficult for any patient, but it requires even more for someone who wants to make an impact on the NBA. Therefore, the player ended up playing only six matches in the qualifying phase of the season 2018/19, added to two brief appearances in the knockout, with a total of 116 minutes on the court.
With push-ups in the middle of the night and pulling a lot of weight, he eventually reached 95 kg, with which he played in his second summer championship – scoring 12 points per game and hitting 48% of the pitch. Finally, after a long wait, he was able to demonstrate his once-praised ability to jump, digging buried and completing air bridges.
“I am 100% healthy. I'm fine, ”he said, just before the start of the 2019/20 season. “At this time last year, I was hurt. Now it's different, but I feel like a newbie again because I can play instead of just watching the games, ”he added, now 20.
It is difficult, however, for Zhaire Smith to find his place in the stuffed cast directed by Brett Brown. In a team of athletes with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Al Horford and Tobias Harris – who split the Eastern Conference lead with five wins and one defeat – there is currently no room for the boy, who is still trying to meet.
To gain experience and return to playing regularly, he has served for the Delaware Blue Colts, a Philadelphia 76ers affiliate team that participates in the NBA development league. Off the court, he stopped tasting unfamiliar foods. And went on to win an exclusive menu prepared by his team.
Despite "relying on the process" – an expression that has accompanied Philadelphia in difficult years, when the team suffered on the court but accumulated young talent – fans have long suffered from the recruited boys. A kind of curse is tied to the 76ers' draft choices since 2013.
That year, the franchise selected Nerlens Noel, today at Oklahoma City Thunder. The pivot was recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon, but the 76ers' leaders bet on its defensive power and its strength in the carboy. The player spent the season on the bench and was eventually changed.
The following year, the charismatic Joel Embiid arrived, the greatest symbol of the "process." But consecutive fractures in his right foot made him lose not only his first but what his second season would be like. It was not until 2016/17 that the pivot could begin to demonstrate its talent, recognized as a major player in the current NBA.
After Embiid in 2015, it was Jahlil Okafor's turn, another physically challenged pivot. With recurrent knee injuries, he lost 29 matches in his first season and 32 in the second. As with Noel, hopeful of the future became the discarded athlete. Now defends the New Orelans Pelicans.
The curse was continued in 2016 with point guard Ben Simmons. Today, he is a key player of the good Sixers team, but his debut only ran in 2017/18, allowing him to be elected rookie almost two years after being chosen.
In the 2017 draft, bad luck was not far behind. To recruit point guard Markelle Fultz with the first overall pick, Philadelphia made a deal with the Boston Celtics in which it sent the rival the third pick. Fultz lost 68 games in his debut season with a shoulder problem that prevented him from raising his arm above his neck.
A big mystery involved the severity of the injury and the athlete's throws, which had a very different mechanics than usual. He was later diagnosed with a rare condition, the thoracic outlet syndrome, which affects range of motion. He stopped playing and was dealt with Orlando Magic, where he now operates.
Boston, with its choice of Fultz, chose Jayson Tatum. The winger became a star of the league and was with the national team in the last World Cup.
Zhaire Smith and Sesame in 2018 only represented one more episode in a strange sequel to Philadelphia.
In 2019, however, nothing atypical has occurred so far with the team's main freshman. Ward Matisse Thybulle has played six Sixers games, averaging 18 minutes on the court, and hopes to end a strange series of misfortunes.
Zhaire Smith, very careful about food, also wants to leave behind a complicated start. His teammates Embiid and Simmons, now the team's top athletes, have succeeded.
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