It was without a doubt a blooper for the ages. A moment that had millions of fans across the world screaming at their TVs. It broke the internet. It broke LeBron James and it broke Cleveland Cavaliers hopes and dreams of perhaps winning another championship title.
In J.R. Smith’s mind, it was nothing more than an “honest mistake.”
“I’ve messed up so many times in my life,” Smith told ESPN’s The Undefeated in a feature published Tuesday. “I mean, I can’t just point at one thing to be mad at.”
Smith’s now-infamous mistake occurred with 4.7 seconds left in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, with his Cavaliers matched up against the heavily favored Golden State Warriors. Behind a heroic James performance (51 points), George Hill had a chance to take the lead with two free throws. After making the first, he missed the second. Smith got the rebound.
The play that decided Game 1. pic.twitter.com/e1UeOv57Rn
— ESPN (@espn) June 1, 2018
Smith started to dribble the ball and by the time he realized his team wasn’t ahead and passed the ball back to Hill, it was too late to get off a quality shot.
“It was tough, but it was the same after Game 2, 3 and 4,” Smith said. “I didn’t take it no harder than those losses just because I made a mistake.”
And Smith isn’t concerning himself a lot about the whole thing and has kept a remarkably grounded view of the incident in hindsight.
“The main thing was, OK, granted, you didn’t shoot the ball, but what if you ain’t get the rebound?” Smith said. “Then what? We still would have been in the same situation. I could have shot and missed. Then what?”
“I mean, it’s an honest mistake. People make mistakes all the time.”
According to his personal trainer, Chris Brickley that mistake has prompted JR to work harder than ever.
“This has been by far the most he’s been in the gym,” Brickley told The Undefeated. “We’ve worked out at 7 in the morning this summer, 8 in the morning this summer. We’ve also worked out at midnight. We’ve put in a ton of work. This has been the most that I’ve witnessed him work on his game.
“He’s an extremely mentally tough person. I think that the situation just made him more focused.”