Zhaire Smith barely had a chance to play for the Sixers. He joined the team as a high-upside, super athletic prospect when Philadelphia selected him in the 2018 draft.
Ahead of his rookie season, Smith suffered a fractured foot and had a life-threatening allergic reaction, causing him to be hospitalized and lose a lot of weight before he was able to recover. He was eventually traded by the Sixers to the Pistons for Tony Bradley in November 2020, before bouncing from Detroit to Memphis and being waived on Dec. 16 of the same year. It was a brutal couple of years for someone trying to start their pro career.
Well, Zhaire isn’t ready to return to the NBA just yet, but he will be playing basketball that you can watch this summer. In July, he’ll be playing in The Basketball Tournament, a 64-team single-elimination tournament where the Elam Ending is used and the winner takes home $1 million.
His team, Air Raiders (a team of Texas Tech alumni), announced the news Wednesday afternoon.
In March, Zhaire posted a rare tweet to provide an update on how he’s doing and his efforts to get back on the floor.
“I have been battling with an severe knee injury for about 2 years now, this has been ongoing since my 2nd year in the league but I played through pain until I couldn’t anymore,” he wrote.
He really couldn’t have had much worse injury luck to begin his career. Now that he’s been able to get healthy, it’s good to hear for Zhaire that a Summer League appearance could be on the way, too.
Zhaire has always had intriguing talent, a high IQ, stellar defensive ability, and special athleticism. It’s great to see that he’s finally healthy. Hopefully he’s able to enjoy a good run of play in The Tournament, and if he can finally keep good health on his side moving forward, maybe he’ll be able to pursue an eventual NBA comeback. Perhaps by getting started with a shot in Summer League this year.