The Tragedy of JR Smith’s Wasted Talent

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Updated: January 9, 2014
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JR Smith could have been great – nay, JR Smith should have been great. He is 6’6 and weighs 220 pounds. This is a build similar to the Michael Jordan’s and Kobe Bryant’s of the world, with the athletic ability to match those players. 

He has a quick release on his jump shot and has a career 36.5% 3-point percentage. By comparison, Kobe Bryant is at 33% for his career.  However, JR was never interested in being great; JR wanted to be a celebrity and get paid – basketball was just his ticket there. 

Let’s make one thing clear: New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson never “got through” to JR, as some like to say. He never had JR under control, he never got JR to play to his full potential, and there is no special connection between them that allowed JR to have the best season of his career last year. 

No, only one person controls JR, and that is JR. JR controlled himself because last year was a contract year, and he baited the Knicks into giving him a 3 year $18 million contract after he put up averages of 18 points per game with 5 rebounds, won Sixth Man of the Year, and helped the Knicks to their best season in over a decade.


How does JR respond to all of these positive accolades? Why, of course, by giving Jason Terry an elbow that gets him suspended for Game 4 of the first round of the playoffs against the Boston Celtics, and then partying with Rihanna and provoking a tweet from RiRi proclaiming the following:

It gets better, because later in the summer JR Smith keeps a knee injury secret from the Knicks until after they give him his contract, and manages to get suspended five games for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy. 

None of this would be as infuriating as it is if the talent was not obviously there. JR Smith can shoot 2-13 from the field on long contested fadeaways, and then in an instant he can make a move towards the rim, do a little step back, and get a wide-open 6 footer. 

You watch JR make plays like this and you realize wait a minute, he can create a shot this good every time down the floor because he has the speed, the dribbling ability and the vertical leap to get that shot whenever he wants. Instead we get games like on December 18, 2013 against the Milwaukee Bucks where JR follows up a night he took 11 three pointers with 17 more 3 point attempts. 

Or, you get JR Smith with the debacle he had against the Houston Rockets this season where he took a quick three with the game tied and the shot clock turned off. 

And now, we have JR with his new favorite hobby…untying opposing players’ shoelaces at the free throw line. Smith first did this to Shawn Marion of the Dallas Mavericks. For his shoe untying fun he received a warning from the NBA, and then JR proceeded to do it again the very next game against the Detroit Pistons! THE VERY NEXT GAME! 

The NBA hit JR Smith in the only place that matters to him: his pockets, handing him a $50,000 fine. The Knicks should follow the NBA’s lead and suspend JR without pay for the next transgression he commits, because there will be a next one.


It’s almost inevitable there will be a next one because almost 10 years into his NBA career, JR Smith just does not get it – and because of that he will never reach his full potential. In his career, JR has played with Chris Paul, Andre Miller, Ty Lawson, and Jason Kidd, all point guards known to make the people around them better, and even they couldn’t get JR playing the right way. 

He has been coached by George Karl, one of the best coaches in NBA history and he was unable to reel in JR, the reason being again, only JR controls JR and he is perfectly fine stashing that talent away and bringing out in glimpses, and that is the real tragedy. 

There is nothing the Knicks can do about JR and his contract, because of his behavior; no one will want to take on that baggage. We can chalk this up to just another excellent decision by Knicks owner James Dolan, lucky us. 

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