Suns Newest Signee May be the Best EverBy: Greg Esposito, Suns.com
Posted: February 12, 2013
On Sunday the Phoenix Suns added another name to their already crowded roster. In an early morning press conference, general manager Lance Blanks announced the team had reached an agreement with combo guard Jonah Zahm from Illinois.
Despite being a relative unknown to those in basketball circles, Zahm received nothing but praise from Blanks who felt the young man might be a true diamond in the rough.
“He will likely go down as the greatest one-day signing in franchise history,” the general manager exclaimed to the gathered media.
You may be wondering why the team would add a fifth point guard when they already have a young and talented group at the position. There is a good reason, and it has nothing to do with basketball.
See, Zahm is a 5-foot tall 12 year old who suffers from Von Willebrand Disease, a progressive blood disorder. And he joined the team for a special reason.
His addition to the roster on a one-day contract -- which he actually signed in front of the media after he made sure his mother carefully read it -- came courtesy of the Make-A-Wish foundation.
Zahm and his mother, father, twin brother, younger brother and service dog, Lila, made the long trek from Osco, Illinois to take part in this unique day.
Jonah, who suffers from seizures and other ailments as part of his disease, was welcomed to the arena with an introductory press conference that included Blanks unveiling the new signee to the media. The presser was then followed by a question-and-answer session.
It didn’t take long for the young man to show his personality to those in attendance. When asked how he would guard Russell Westbrook in the evening’s game against Oklahoma City, Zahm cracked a smile and said “You can’t. He’s too fast.”
It was a very honest response that many other NBA players would probably like to give if they were only on a one-day contract. But the press conference wasn’t all that was in store for Zahm.
He was given his own locker filled with Suns warm-ups and other swag next to starting point guard Goran Dragic’s locker, got his own personal session with trainer Aaron Nelson and got to shoot around with the team.
He put on a shooting display when he took the court too. He hit seven shots in a row from about 10-feet out, conjuring up images of a young Eddie Johnson, who also wore No. 8 on his Suns jersey. After practice he had enough courage to take on Shannon Brown one-on-one and also got post-practice notes on his game and other subjects from 17-year NBA veteran and current Suns interim coach Lindsey Hunter.
His jump shot caught the eye of the coach.
“He has a nice little jumper,” Hunter said. “I talked to him about playing and his favorite sports. It’s always great to share, especially being in the industry we’re in. When you can share with a kid like that it means the world to him. For him to be able to come here and live out one of his dreams is awesome.”
Before leaving the practice court he got to huddle up with the team, take a picture and get autographs. While he originally was going to be given a generic ball to have his new teammates sign, forward Michael Beasley said Jonah deserved something truly special and unique. With that in mind, he handed the young man the official ball they used in practice before he and the rest of the team signed it.
It was a nice gesture that made Zahm feel like a true member of the team.
In most cases, the morning’s events would have been more than enough to accomplish a young man’s sports fantasy, but there was more in store for Jonah on this day.
Despite growing up in Illinois, he had a great affinity for the Suns because his father, Jon, grew up watching the team back when Walter Davis roamed the court, western font jerseys were all the rage and short-shorts were the norm. Like his dad, Jonah fell in love with the Suns and one player’s sharp-shooting in particular. While his dad liked the Greyhound, the younger Zahm had an affinity for the long-range stylings of one Channing Frye.
With Frye out due to a health ailment of his own, Jonah didn’t get a chance to meet him at practice. He would get a chance to go one-on-one with his basketball idol in a different forum though. The two got to enjoy a lunch together at Stingray Sushi.
If you’re wondering if a 12-year-old boy really likes sushi, you’re not alone. Frye wondered the same thing and in a nice moment at the start of lunch, Jonah answered the Suns’ big man’s quandary by assuring him that sushi is one of his favorite snacks.
Over the next hour and a half the two shared stories with Frye describing everything from his senior year loss at Arizona to Illinois, to the best dunker in the NBA (we won’t divulge his answer here) and how he made numerous game-winning shots in his career. At the end of the lunch, it was tough to tell who had a bigger smile on his face, Jonah or Frye as both seemed to genuinely enjoy their conversation.
It was a touching moment made even more powerful when you realized that both were facing life-altering illnesses and yet both kept a truly positive outlook on the world.
“You put things in perspective,” Frye said with his signature smile on his face. “I had a great time talking with him and his family. Anything I can do to help out. It’s an honor. There are 400 and something [NBA players] and he chose me. It makes me want to come back to the court fast, be healthy and continue to play. Hopefully I can make an impact in other lives.”
When game time rolled around, Jonah got to take in player introductions from the bench, get introduced on the scoreboard as a member of the team, was in the team huddle prior to tip-off and watched the game courtside next to Suns owner Robert Sarver. Quite the VIP treatment for a special young man.
Jonah Zahm never recorded a single point, shot, rebound, assist or minute of play for the Phoenix Suns, but on this day, he became the front office’s greatest signing. That’s because the 5-foot point guard had a bigger impact on those he came in contact with than any athlete. He reminded everyone just how precious life can be and how we take for granted the unique and exciting things that occur in our daily lives.