In Defence of J.R Smith

Written by Hank (@henrystandage)


Most sports players are as famous as they are skilled — that’s usually how the ratio goes. There is some variability to this of course. For instance, Steph Curry perennially has the highest selling jersey in the NBA, but the best player in the NBA is LeBron James. This is hardly an egregious misstep for the jersey-buying community. Steph Curry is really really good.

Sometimes though, you see players who are much more famous than they are skilled. This happens for a variety of reasons. Occasionally it will be for on-the-court reasons; there are far more Robert Horry jerseys in commission than you would be led to believe from his skill level.

It can also be for off-the-court reasons, such as, you know, any player that dates a Kardashian. However, my favourite reason for a player being more famous than he is skilled, is because he’s relatable.

All this is to say, we ALL know a J.R Smith.

I know this, because I am a J.R Smith myself.

The other day my housemate was notably cold to me at breakfast. Eventually after a few snide comments, he cut to the chase and snapped “Are you TRYING to kill us!?” I had left the stove on overnight. You know who else definitely leaves the stove on — J.R Smith.

This past Wednesday I got so drunk that I blacked out, woke up 2 hours late for work without my phone and then stood around so lethargically all afternoon you would’ve thought that I was Carmelo Anthony after his team turned the ball over in transition. And no, I wasn’t drinking Hennessy that night. But I wish I had been.

On Saturday night I did the following:

  1. Ill-advisedly decided to DM a girl named Alexa.
  2. Accidentally DM’d Alexa a photo of a DIFFERENT girl named Alexa with the caption “Hey, what’s up”.
  3. I never followed up. I just let her think that I had harvested the audacity to send her a picture of a girl with the same name as her, with an incredibly casual opening line attached to it. She didn’t respond. Not everyone can handle a curveball I guess.

(If this isn’t the dorky white male version of asking a girl if she wants to “get the pipe” on twitter, then I don’t know what is.)

(Although, it’s definitely not worse than the time Marco Bellinelli asked a girl if she wanted to see “something long and thick to eat”. Seriously, we live in a society that is learning to conquer the false notion of stereotypes and then a 6’5 Italian NBA player words a pickup line like he’s being caricatured by Sasha Baron Cohen. Good lord. Way to send us back to the middle ages Belli.)

All three Henry stories I told you occurred in the last six days. I am fully aware that I am the human embodiment of a Best Buy on Black Friday. Like I said, I am J.R Smith. I am glad we have established my credibility.

When J.R grabbed a crucial rebound in the waning moments of game 1 and started running deer-in-the-headlights style toward his own hoop like he somehow had a freaky-Friday switch with my sports-oblivious mother (and that’s generous J.R — even my Mom might not pass up an open LeBron at the top of the key to win it), it hurt a little bit. It hurt because I knew what J.R was in for.

We love it when our expectations of people ring true. Especially when those people find a way to surpass the narrative that we’ve idealized about them. It’s like when you agree to smoke weed with a bunch of guys and they tell you that their one friend always gets way too stoned. When that guy inevitably gets hilariously high — yeah it’s funny, because that guy knew that everybody was expecting him to get too high, and he still did it. The J.R incident, is if that guy decided to crush a weed brownie on prom night, and then ended up going to the hospital right as the after party got going. And then the cops busted the after party and sent everyone home. As long as you’re not a member of that high school, it’s an unbelievably amusing story.

If you had told me in March, without saying what teams were in the finals or any background info, that a player had secured an offensive rebound with 4.7 to play and then promptly ran away to run out the clock because he thought they were up, I would’ve responded “LeBron really got them back to the finals eh?”. Because who else in the NBA would forget the score? Of course it would be J.R to make the inexcusable mental mistake that finally made the unflappable LeBron James break a little, instead of just bending.

The next day J.R claimed he knew the game was tied. I guess nobody told him that ESPN had replayed the footage of him mouthing “I thought we were up” to a mystified LeBron so many times, you would’ve thought he was telling him Melania Trump’s location.

It’s tough watching grown men lie. J.R knew he’d fulfilled even his cruellest meme maker’s prophecies, so now he was fibbing in the hopes that we would believe he simply made a terrible play, rather than the truth; he made a J.R Smith play.

J.R hasn’t averaged more than 14 points per game or shot over 42% on the season since 2014. He’s a player who looked like he was on his way out of the league before he was shot back into the limelight as a starter on a LeBron James team. J.R was never supposed to be grabbing offensive rebounds in the deciding moments of a Finals game in year 14 of his career — he’s out of place. It’s like if Zach Galifianakis randomly became a part of Drake’s entourage amid this Pusha T beef. He’s just a little too boneheaded. The worst part is, this isn’t even J.R’s first time forgetting the score in a close game. It’s just his first time doing it in the finals.

It’s a shame that the masses will probably look back at J.R’s career as a ticking time bomb that ultimately culminated in a calamitous and thoroughly embarrassing mistake on basketball’s biggest stage. Those with a further reaching back outlook will remember his heartfelt post-game press conference after becoming a champion in 2016 followed by his critically acclaimed shirtless, Hennessy filled summer (Sidenote: My dream for the Uncle Drew movie is that J.R steals Julian’s rum and coke shtick from Trailer Park Boys and has a bottle of Hennessey in his hand during every scene).

I expect J.R to retire or be traded to a team that will rely less on ‘J.R the NBA Finals decision maker’ and more on ‘J.R the lovable, goofy bench scorer’. Whatever happens, as I scroll through the barrage of Smith jokes that continue to occupy all of my social media timelines, I find it hard not to empathize with the man. There is something utterly depressing about doing something brainless and understanding it was a matter of character, more than circumstance.

Because like I said, I am J.R Smith.



Henry Standage is a blog contributor majoring in English at Western University. He is currently in the midst of once again convincing himself into believing in this years England World Cup team. 

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