Zhaire Smith's father uses son's recovery to overcome his own ch - FOX34 Lubbock

Zhaire Smith's father uses son's recovery to overcome his own challenges

Zhaire Smith has many fans here following his stand-out season playing for Texas Tech. He just wrapped up his first season in the NBA for the Philadelphia 76ers. 

Billy Ray and Zhaire's basketball bond goes way back, but he suffered a setback when his son was in eighth grade. In 2013, he had surgery for a herniated disc in his back that was compressing nerves. The surgery was supposed to be three hours, but ended up lasting eight.

"I had doctors come by and touch and ask if I could feel anything. I just couldn't feel it," Billy Ray said. 

Smith was in the hospital for three months and left in a wheelchair with no timetable of when he'd walk again. While he focused on his recovery when he got out, providing for his family was his main priority. 

"I was thinking how the nerves could come back but I was also thinking about how I could get back to work. I just wanted to get back to my routine of working, getting money, taking care of the kids and that type of deal," Smith said. 

While watching his son get drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft in 2018, Smith was still in a wheelchair. Last fall, Zhaire suffered a life-threatening allergic reaction, keeping him in the hospital for three and a half weeks. When Billy visited his son, he forced himself to make a change. 

"When I saw him, he wasn't able to speak of course and he wasn't able to walk. I just looked at him and thought 'I can't do anything for you and you're looking at me and you can't speak'. That kind of clicked for me and I looked at him and told him that he will never see me in a wheelchair again," Billy Ray said. 

Smith built up endurance after the visit, rehabbing and working out more while using his son as motivation. 

"When I get back, I have to turn it up a notch. I have to show you how to fight. He knows how to fight, but I had to show him that I am not just going to sit around and he can't just sit around."

Their recoveries were almost perfectly parallel. Zhaire got out of the hospital and made it to the court for the 76ers, and Billy was walking again for the first time in more than five years. The reactions he received motivated him even more. 

"They were surprised and didn't know I was this tall. They were happy to see me walking again and thought it was because of a surgery. I told them I just had to turn it up a notch with what my son was going through, I had to fight as well," Smith said. 

Texas Tech head basketball coach Chris Beard was overjoyed to see Smith walking again. "I wasn't surprised that he was walking it just shocked me because I didn't know the timetable for his recovery," Beard said.

While using his walker, he's been hitting the gym at least three days a week to get stronger. While the results so far have been encouraging, he is far from satisfied. 

"Now my deal is to get rid of the walker," Smith said. "You can probably give me a cane and I can probably get by. If I go down it'll be hard to get back up on a cane. My thing is if I get down, I want to be able to get up by myself. If I can get up by myself we can really make this thing happen."

Billy Ray is more to Chris Beard than just one of his players' dads. 

"We stay in touch today. I was just pleased on a friendship level that he was going in the right direction. His life is going to be a lot better," Beard said.

Smith plans to continue with his recovery and hopes to ditch the walker by next spring. He also plans to go to Las Vegas in July to watch his son play for the 76ers' summer league team. 


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