From NBA hooligan to model student and golf promise at 36

Pablo Lodeiro



JR Smith (New Jersey, 1985), since he landed in the NBA 17 years ago, has always been haunted by that fame as an agent of chaos, a man as capable of winning a game with the most beautiful of baskets as he is of presenting himself to a training with little sleep in the backpack. The shooting guard, one of the most spectacular players of the past decade, came to peace by proclaiming himself NBA champion twice, once with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 and another with Los Angeles Lakers in 2020. After the title with the Californians, the player, reformed, champion and with a full portfolio (he tied up nearly 85 million euros in five different teams), decided to retire and, last summer, surprised by announcing that he had enrolled in college to play his new passion, golf.

Against all odds, he kept his promise.

To the students of the North Carolina State University they are no longer surprised to see an NBA champion on campus. Smith, 1.98 meters tall and tattooed to the eyebrows, has become one more in the institution. He attends study groups, does his Language homework and connects to videoconference tutorials to ask his teachers questions. At least that’s how he relates it on his Twitter account, where he narrates his new university experience (he had already been to North Carolina but at 18 years old and was only there for one course before jumping to the NBA). He even gets good grades: his average in the last semester has been four out of five. “I can’t even describe what I feel. I’ve put a lot of hard work into this shit,” he said proudly after receiving his grades.

However, golf is the main engine of this new and strange adventure. Smith joined the team as a media claim but has ended up becoming a college star despite his 36 springs. He has even signed several (and juicy) endorsements with renowned golf brands in recent months. Following his performances on the green, this week he was named athlete of the year by the southern state institution. “Yes sir! Proud of you, boy. I love you brother,” the Lakers star wrote after the news. LeBron Jamesone of Smith’s greatest supporters in the NBA and with whom he shared a dressing room in the championships in Cleveland and Los Angeles.

Smith had several of his best seasons with the New York Knicks – Reuters

Smith’s new life takes on much more value if you’re an NBA fan. Despite his talent, the player has always been in the eye of the hurricane. Controversies and more controversies that in many moments threatened to bury him. Fined for destroying the mobile phone of a rival fan, denounced by a 19-year-old who in 2015 assured that he tried to strangle him when leaving a nightclub, sanctioned for tattooing a clothing brand (the NBA does not allow players to use their body to promote products), recorded while beating up a protester during the marches of the Black Live Matters (he was already retired)… Sometimes people just change.

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