It’s been over seven years since the New York Knicks traded J.R. Smith to the Cleveland Cavaliers, which resulted in Smith winning a ring. Smith went on to play for the Cavaliers through the 2018-19 season before playing in six games for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2019-20, which resulted in him winning his second title.
It’s been almost two years since Smith last played in an NBA game. He played a combined nine minutes in the Lakers’ first three games against the Miami Heat in the 2020 NBA Bubble. Los Angeles went on to beat Miami in six games, but Smith didn’t play in the final three games of 2020 NBA Finals.
Since then, the now 37-year-old enrolled at North Carolina A&T to pursue a degree in liberal studies ahead of the 2021-22 school year. He successfully petitioned to be allowed to join the men’s golf program as a walk-on and is currently in his second season at A&T after being named the Academic Athlete of the Year in 2021-22 with a 4.0 GPA.
Smith has been busy since he won a ring alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis in Orlando, but he hasn’t officially retired from the NBA. In a recent conversation with Complex’s Pierce Simpson, Smith opened up about his absence from the NBA.
Former Knick J.R. Smith believes that he’s been ‘blackballed’ by NBA
J.R. Smith was asked if he believes that he’s been ‘blackballed’ by the NBA, to which he replied:
“Yeah, 100 percent,” he says. “Anybody can sit here and tell you that that’s a fact.”
Simpson wrote that although Smith’s a two-time champion, “he’s remembered only for his worst moments on the floor.”
Of course, Simpson referred back to Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals. The Cavaliers were tied with the Warriors, 107-107, when George Hill missed his second free throw with 4.7 seconds left to go. Smith got the rebound, and instead of going back up, he dribbled out to the top of the key while LeBron was frantically pointing at the basket. Golden State went on to win in overtime, 124-114.
That’s a moment that Smith will never be able to escape, and is one that he ultimately believes has led to him no longer being part of the league.
J.R. Smith feels as if he can still play a valuable role in the NBA, but as time continues to pass, the chances of that happening will become slimmer. Maybe his career will be revitalized like Melo’s.
But if J.R. never plays in the NBA again, he should be proud of his career, but more importantly, be proud of what he’s accomplished off the basketball court.