The only way to make a truly lasting impact is to do something permanent. Zhaire Smith has done just that.
The second-year guard for the Sixers came out onto the floor on Tuesday night sporting a shiny new No. 7 jersey, a one-point difference from his usual No. 8. Smith wanted to honor the late great Kobe Bryant, the future Hall-of-Fame player who was tragically killed in a helicopter crash over the weekend.
While Sixers players came out wearing alternating No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys in pre-game warmups, Smith wanted to do something a little more meaningful. The 20-year-old kid out of Texas Tech had been donning the No. 8 all year down in the G-League for the Delaware Blue Coats. Upon hearing of Bryant’s passing, he decided to retire the number — for good.
“I was thinking about it overnight when it happened,” Smith said, via The Inquirer‘s Keith Pompey. “Then today, I decided to change it honor him.”
Smith wore No. 7 during the Sixers’ 115-104 victory on Tuesday over the Golden State Warriors but intends to change it to No. 5 for the rest of the year.
Potential Trade Scenarios for Sixers at Deadline
Zhaire Smith, the former first-round pick (16th overall) in 2018, has been linked as a possible asset to move as the NBA’s trade deadline creeps up on Feb. 6.
The Sixers are widely expected to make a deal to improve their depth on the bench. Some of the more high-profile names they have been linked to include Chris Paul, Robert Covington, Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanović, Davis Bertans and Andre Iguodala.
The one thing they are in dire need of is a three-point shooter. Would they make a move without Brett Brown’s input? The Sixers head coach recently talked about his relationship with GM Elton Brand and how much say he has in personnel decisions.
“Elton and I talk all the time about what I think we need as a coach and what I’m feeling, and he shares his thoughts as well,” Brown told reporters, via Philly Voice. “But the day-to-day stuff, communicating with the players, I’ll do as much as I can and try to be just aware of the landscape you’re referring to and share information as I see it.”
Joel Embiid Going Back to No. 21 for Sixers
While Zhaire Smith has decided to permanently switch his jersey number, another player will be returning to his familiar threads.
Sixers big man Joel Embiid wore No. 24 on Tuesday as a way to pay tribute to Kobe Bryant. He scored 24 points on the night and admitted to yelling out “Kobe” on his final fadeaway jumper.
Despite all the success, Embiid said he will go back to his usual No. 21 for the remainder of the season as the Sixers make their final playoff push. Philadelphia currently holds the No. 5 spot in the Eastern Conference with 48 regular-season games in the books. Next up, a showdown on Jan. 30 with the Hawks in Atlanta.
“When you think about where I came from and how I started playing the game, I go back to the first time I really watched basketball, which was in 2010, the Finals against Boston,” Embiid told reporters, via Sports Illustrated. “That’s how I became a Kobe fan. I wanted to be like Kobe and I wanted to play basketball.”