A basketball player’s life is built and destroyed by moments. For JR Smith, the peak was when he made a crucial defensive effort that enabled his team to win the 2016 Finals. The lowest was when he committed a critical mistake during the 2018 Finals, the effects of which he still feels up to today.
How the play unfolded according to JR Smith
In a rare interview on the “I Am Athlete” podcast hosted by Brandon Marshall and D.J. Williams, Smith told the story coming from its main protagonist and antagonist - himself. In Game 1 the 2018 Finals, JR got the rebound in the lane as time waned down. Both teams were tied with a chance to win the game on his hands. But the shooting guard inexplicably brought the ball out, wasting time in the process. LeBron James’ reaction would soon become a meme. For Smith, he did what the Cavs were taught to do.
“I already knew we had a time out. I get the rebound and I think it’s five other times in the season we were put in the same situation. First thing we do, we get the rebound, we call a time out, get the ball to LeBron, space out, he’s gonna make it work. I did think we were up by one. In this situation, we got the rebound, we called a time out and we got a chance to win. What better chance we got? But long story short, don’t go that way.”
JR Smith, ">I Am Athlete
The game went into overtime, and the Cavs lost. The Warriors would go on to sweep LeBron, which prompted his decision to leave Cleveland for L.A. What hurt the fans was the fact that had the Cavs won Game 1, it would have changed the outcome of the series. After that Game 1 loss, the team never recovered. No one gave the Cavs a chance against KD, Steph, Klay, and Draymond but James and his teammates almost proved everyone wrong. In the end, that crucial mistake sucked the life out of the team.
To be fair, it wasn’t all JR’s fault. The team had a chance to take Game 1 away in OT. But because the team lost the only game they had a real chance of winning, the blame was put on Smith’s shoulders. George Hill wasn’t even blamed that much after he missed the free-throw that could have given them the lead or the win.
Smith was deeply affected by that mistake
He was blamed for the loss but did not receive enough recognition for playing defense on Andre Iguodala, setting him up for the chase-down block of James in the 2016 Finals. When asked if he had recovered from the ordeal, the former Slam Dunk contestant admitted getting depressed.
“I believe I’ve recovered from it. But I ain’t gonna lie, bro, I used to dream about that. Like I was in a depressed state, because I really thought this is why I’m not in the league. I used to really think that damn, after all these highlights I gave these people. You tell me I got talent. I got this. I got that. Off of one play, now all of a sudden, I don’t have talent no more. I’m not good.”
Smith's last game in the league was in 2020. He won a title with the Lakers, the second of his career, and the second title he won with LeBron James. Good thing he transitioned to golf and made himself busy getting into college. As for his NBA career, this might be it. No matter what people say, he’s won two titles. It matters more than the memes.