Zhaire Smith Has Overcome the Sixers’ Rookie Curse


True process-trusters are all too aware of the infamous rookie curse. Year after year the 76ers draft lucky, talented basketball players who unfortunately meet a painful fate.

 The Rookie Curse

It all started in the 2013-14 season with Nerlens Noel. Noel missed the entire season because of a left knee injury. The following two seasons, Sixers all-star Joel Embiid recovered from a foot injury that delayed his pro basketball career. After Embiid, the team drafted Ben Simmons, who then missed an entire season — also due to a foot injury.

The following year, the 76ers drafted Markelle Fultz, one of the more disappointing stories in Sixers rookie history. He only played four games before injuring his shoulder. He missed 68 games during the 2017-18 season and was not in the playoff rotation.

Image via USA Today Sports

Fans anxiously awaited his return for the 2018-19 season. All they wanted was to see Fultz and his jump shot come back to life. Unfortunately, he didn’t live up to Philadelphia’s expectations. He suffered from yet another shoulder injury, at least supposedly, and remained out until he was traded to Orlando in February.

Zhaire Smith

This is where Zhaire Smith enters the picture. Soon after he was drafted, Smith suffered a simple foot injury, one that should’ve had a clear recovery path. However, Smith wasn’t so fortunate, as he also suffered from an awful allergic reaction that nearly killed him. While in the hospital, Smith lost a ton of weight, was on a feeding tube, and could hardly function.

Image via Tim Tai/Philly.com

Almost no one knew what was going on with Smith. Fans even joked on social media throughout the season, asking if Zhaire Smith was alive. Little did they know, that question was perfectly valid. It wasn’t until much later in the season that Smith began playing with the Delaware Bluecoats, the Sixers G-League affiliate team.

The Comeback

Smith made his first appearance with the Sixers against Orlando on March 25. The game resulted in a bad loss, but there was one small light at the end of the tunnel. Fans finally saw a few minutes of Zhaire, where his first career shot was a successful 3 pointer. He saw more and more minutes towards the end of the regular season. In the last regular season game Smith truly shined, posting 17 points, four rebounds and five assists.

According to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Serena Winters, Zhaire did 300 push ups every day in the hospital to rebuild some strength. Fans were shocked to see him play in an NBA game this year, especially after what they experienced with Markelle Fultz. Zhaire Smith’s comeback was truly amazing and it’ll be exciting to see what’s in store for him in the future.

About Melissa Friedman

Temple University graduate and devoted Sixers fan. Trust the process!

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