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Playing through sickle cell

Eighteen minutes in with no break, Billy Garrett Jr. finally looks gassed, wiping sweat from his brow while visible sweat stains mark the back of his shirt. Fatigue hits, but not hard like a Mike Tyson punch — more like a Floyd Mayweather Jr. jab. The NBA hopeful starts to cut corners during a cone drill, barely lifting his feet, which are adorned with “Chicago” edition Nike Hyperdunk Low sneakers complete with graffiti and “Chi” on the heel.

A professional athlete struggling through a workout is nothing to write home about, but special attention has always been paid to Garrett, 23. When he was born in 1994, he was diagnosed with sickle cell disease, a hereditary blood disorder that causes normally round and healthy red blood cells to mutate into crescent- or sickle-shaped cells that can either die altogether or stick to one another and disrupt the flow of oxygen throughout the body.