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Thursday, October 30th, 2008 at 11:52 am  |  30 responses

Mr. Smith

Charles Smith is taking advantage of life after hoops.

by Matt Caputo
Former NBA big man Charles Smith kept playing well after his career ended. After spending eight years in the League, he went the corporate route and worked hard to help improve his hometown Bridgeport, Conn. While he never won a championship or played in an All-Star game, Smith maximized the benefits of being a former NBA player.

Originally drafted by the Sixers in 1986, Smith was instantly traded to the Clippers. He averaged 20 points in two of his first four seasons before being traded to the Knicks in exchange for Mark Jackson and Bo Kimble. In New York, he helped the Knickerbockers to the Playoffs. However, Smith’s otherwise solid career legacy was hurt considerably when he failed to nail one of four easy lay-ups in game five of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals. Smith played his last season in 1996-97 with the Spurs, but he lives in New Jersey and is still active in the Knick community.

SLAM spoke to Smith as he took part in the KIA NBA TIP-OFF event in Union Square.

SLAM: So what have you been up to since you left the NBA?
Charles Smith: I’ve been out in the workplace. I ran a software company for about six years. Currently getting my Masters in management, finishing up over at Seton Hall University. I’ve worked as a regional representative for the NBA Players Association.

SLAM: What do you feel like your best year as pro was?
CS: Probably my first initial years at the Clippers, mainly because I was the captain and the leader of the ball club and when you’re in that position, you can pretty much let your creativity flow because you can shoot, nobody’s challenging the shots that you’re taking as long as you have a high percentage. Those are my better years–when I first started my career playing ball.

SLAM: You averaged 20 and a bunch of rebounds the first two years, you think you could have been an All-Star?
CS: Oh yeah. I missed the All-Star game one time mainly because you know, when you’re on a losing team they’re not too favorable on somebody scoring a lot of points on a losing team making the All-Star team. Yeah, I kind of had an opportunity and had it fly passed. But I had a good career.

SLAM: What were your favorite years playing with the Knicks, being that you’re from Bridgeport?
CS: When we were the Eastern Conference champs, one of the big games was when we beat Indiana. That Indiana series was tough with the Davis boys and Rick Smits and those guys, that was a tough series. So winning that series was one of the better wins at the garden.

SLAM: The University of Pittsburgh program looks strong this year, you excited about them?
CS: I caught up with those guys when they came in town for the Big East media day, they’re looking pretty good. They got a good nucleus, they got a good coach, they’re kinda small but they play hard and they know each other, so I’m looking for big things from them.

SLAM: What was the best thing you think the NBA exposed for you?
CS: That’s a very good question. You asked me the question, I’m thinking of a lot. Overall, I didn’t go through my career with blinders on, so if guys don’t do that, you get exposed to so much with life after basketball if you pay attention. I got exposed to see how teams ran their marking departments, I got exposed to see how different teams ran their organizations, I had the opportunity to play in a major market with a losing team with the Clippers and a major with a great team, New York, a small market with a really good team and management in San Antonio, and everybody does it differently, so when guys don’t get traded and they don’t see an entire scope of the NBA life then you have a mild view of how it is and you really don’t grow. It afforded me the opportunity to meet a ton of people and for me to develop personally as an individual.

SLAM: How do you feel you will be remembered by NBA fans? Does it matter to you?
CS: Yes, it matters how people remember you. But more importantly, it matters how my family knows, I have four boys, how I took the challenge of my career, how I went through my career, through the ups and downs and how I continued after my career.

SLAM: I know you’re heavily involved in Bridgeport’s Boys and Girls club.
CS: I have my own foundation in Bridgeport. I’ve had it going on 20 years now for families and children. All these years later, when I walk around and I see somebody twenty years old saying “I went to your organization and here’s how you helped me and my family” that’s very gratifying.

SLAM: What’s your alternate goal now that you’re in school? Where do you see yourself going?
CS: I’ve been constantly, I don’t stop, just like I approached my career in basketball, I approached my personal development and my business life. I’m trying to create a certain value for myself; create value so that I’m more marketable to organizations and corporations. That’s what I’m doing, working for the PA has been great, working for the players. I’ve been out there in business, done a lot of entrepreneurial things. I’ve been voted to the Top 40 Under 40 entrepreneurs in New Jersey. The Top 30 Under 30 with another organization and I’m steadily pushing. At the end of the day, I still want to build my value to run a department, to run an organization that doesn’t have to be sports.

SLAM: What do you think your best moment in the NBA was, on the floor?
CS: Probably, I’ll always have the experience and that feeling of making the Playoffs for the first time with the Knicks. But me personally, probably when I scored 54 against Denver because you don’t realize it until after your career’s over. All those guys who score over 50, they’re guards. I don’t know how many there are, but there are very few power forwards and centers who score over 50 points.

SLAM: What do you remember about that night?
CS: That I couldn’t miss! I remember that and I remember there was like three minutes to go in the game and I remember the bench, we were up by you know 15, 20, the game was over and I remember the bench, the guys yelling to me “Shoot! Shoot!” and I’m like what are they talking about? Nobody said anything to me and it was because I could have broke the record.

SLAM: What did you feel like you brought to the court every night when you were in the NBA?
CS: You know what? Everybody has their own thing that they bring to the game and they bring to the team, I look back at my career and nobody can say I wasn’t the consummate team player. Every coach that I had–that was a good and bad about my career. This coach says you’re gonna be a center or back up center, and this coach says you can play small forward, this coach says you can play power forward, this coach says you can defend some of the guards. I moved around so much that I always fit into the club. I think maybe when I look back, if I would have stuck to my guns and said I’m a power forward, I only want to play power forward, maybe I would have lasted longer, but not. But that’s what I’ve always been. Everybody I played with can always say if coach asked me “can you do this?” I’d always do it.

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  • kirk

    can we get an update on Anthony Mason?!?!!?

  • awesomepossum

    softie

  • awesomepossum

    everyone was rooting for that 93 Knicks team to knock the Bulls off..

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    I thought he lived in NJ…I see him with kids in Montclair pretty regularly. Very nice guy, mediocre career.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    Caputo is ridiculous. I silently thank Charles periodically for getting blocked on those layups whenver I feel down. Dude seems really cool. Again, Caputo, great work.

  • KA

    damn matt c is rolling. sounds like a smart dude, love the hi fade top.

  • pennydunk_1

    I remember he had some cool handles back in L.A.
    And he had some cool dunks. And he had a fresh hairdo. Those are enough for a succesful career.
    More of those updates please

  • http://www.ballislife.com Arek

    Great read matt, great to see that an NBA player made good use of his money after the NBA instead of going broke like half the other retired athletes

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    SLAM: How do you feel you will be remembered by NBA fans?

    [Marv]Smith blocked! Smith blocked! Smith…blocked again! And the Chicago Bulls…[Marv]

  • Static

    Great read, no too often we get to hear about the guys that do good as players and even after they retire since the media loves the stupid sh*t people do…hopefully this kind of stuff rubs off on the players he helps in the association

  • Ken

    What is the record for most points for a PF?

  • KA

    I think dice scored a 50 one time. so you know, it happens. meanwhile a scrub guard like tony delk can score 50 and keeps it real driving a toyota sans cd player. country ghetto!

  • Ace

    1993 Eastern Conference Finals: NBA / Refs favoritism for Jordan at its finest. Smith was fouled like crazy on those layup attempts.

  • http://n/a 007

    People really do think much on the bad side. Whether it sells or not. tsk tsk.
    I wanna be bad. F**k d elections.

  • Mike

    Matt, more and more you are becoming the Bert Sugar of Knicks basketball.

  • http://nyer.sosblog.com/ Be A Real Fan

    I used to work as a bouncer at a club and watched Charles Smith get teased in the lobby while he was busy trying to score comp passes. NY hates this dude

  • Lz – Cphfinest3

    Even though he was somewhat of a soft player, I always kind of liked Smith. Don’t really know why – since he wasn’t that special at all. Anyways gooooood work by Charles and the writer. And like somebody already said – please do something on Mase. His “Bite the Lemon” haircut is easily the best NBA haircut ever.

  • http://www.ravingblacklunatic.blogspot.com Allenp

    Nice interview.
    But I can’t believe y’all didn’t ask about those block layups. That’s damn near mandatory.

  • bendreizehn

    Nice…and now Mase & Oak!!!

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    @ Be A Real Fan: More like he hates You. Not New York.

  • The Ghost of Wilt Chamberlain

    I get goosebumps when I hear “Smith, blocked! Blocked again! Smith again, blocked! Smith has it taken away!” That is how he will always be remembered. On the recieving end of one of the greatest defensive plays of all time.

  • Todd Spehr

    It’s worth noting that Smith’s 52-pointer came against the Westhead Nuggets – all scoring records that came in games where Westhead were involve NEED an asterisk!

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    Matty, if you’re taking interview requests from the 90′s Knicks era, I’d love Mase too, but Derek Harper would be another gem if you can line that up……dude is still in South FLA all the time, I’m sure.

  • chintao

    I kind of agree with Ace. Still, I understand that it’s difficult to blow the whistle in that situation. Smith should have made the play. On the other hand, that play is not the summation of his career. Smith’s steadying influence and quality play were a big reason the Knicks were in that ’93 EC final to begin with.

  • guess what he

    Great article and nice questions. I’m glad to hear that he’s investing in the community and education — NBA players should take a note.

    Charles Smith is a very nice guy in person … I had the chance to meet him at the All-Star Weekend while I was wearing a Ken Norman Clippers jersey :-)

  • Dave

    Nice to hear how Charles is doing. I knew him from his software company days. He is a regular guy and glad to hear the things he has done and doing.

  • http://fanthony@satx.rr.com freddie anthony

    Charles is a very down to earth cool brother. I had the pleasure of rubing elbows with him and his lovely family, he hire my wife (Gemma) as his assistance while a member of the SA Spurs great man good luck to you and your family, thanks for all you did for Gemma

  • Joe lowery

    Charles Smith is a class act he is loved in his home town Bridgeport,Ct I’ve known him all his life. He doesn’t have to be the greatest player. He is a great person! Much luv hommie.

    Your boy,

    Shugg

  • http://xxxxxx Sonbun son of a gun

    Charles Chaz Smith is a great friende to have we grew up in the same hood he is well respected in the community.There should not be favortism in the NBA he got fouled on thye play twice i could see them letting one of the fouls go but two thats crazy. not if he had gone to the freethrow line and missed both foul shots then people might have a right to critize him. But for a non call by the refs thats there faultbecause that makes me think about when that ref got caught cheating my question is was that ref working that game then again you have people that do crimes that just didnt get caught how we no that one of the other refs didnt do the same thing on that game these are the thing that make you go hmmmmmmmmmm Sonbun Son Of a Gun

  • Joe26

    Charles should have said was there a foul or couple of fouls or everything was clean. Youtube videos don’t show details. If I were fouled then, would repeat that all the time without being asked.
    I have a reasonable doubt that there was at least one foul down there and that the Bulls were favored by the refs because of MJ and his market value for the NBA. And if “Sonbun son of gun” is right as I suspect then people do great injustice by mocking Charles who was then robbed by the refs.
    Or when they mock Charles while not having evidence that everything was clean (most of us, if not all, don’t know what exactly happened down there since people keep asking was he fouled or not).
    Guess Charles doesn’t tell the truth about those layups because he works with the NBA: if the refs cheated and gave the game 5 to the Bulls NBA would lose much money.

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