J.R. Smith is on to the next chapter of his life as he’s evolved from a two-time champion to a college student-athlete at NC A&T, where he earned a 4.0 GPA during his first semester of college and was named the Academic Athlete of the Year at the North Carolina HBCU.
The pivot from being a professional hopper to a college student came after his former teammate, Ray Allen, a fellow avid golfer who Smith called a “great motivational speaker,” inspired Smith to challenge himself to get an education while the two were on a trip in the Dominican Republic.
“I was working like I was literally trying to make the league all over again,” Smith said per Complex. “It was fun as hell. When I got my first A in class, it was like me dunking on somebody or hitting a game-winner.”
Smith’s pivot gained more significance after his oldest daughter told him she was proud of him for going back to school, a moment that made Smith emotional.
The proud moment fulfilled a part of Smith’s purpose in pursuing a college degree. The former Sixth Man of the Year wanted to set an example for his daughters to “know they’re worth” that they can get a higher education no matter where they are in life.
“She looked at me and told me, ‘Daddy, I’m really happy you went back to school,’ I had to get up and walk away,” Smith said. “My oldest has seen it all. She’s seen the good and the bad. She’s been in the thick of it. So when she told me that, it really had me choked up.”
“It was for me but more importantly, what I’ve done was for them to understand you can… For one, you can always get your education no matter how old you are. It was also to understand your self-worth, especially for young Black women in this country.”
As J.R. Smith continues to evolve away from the game where he’s had great moments (two titles, 2013 Sixth Man of the Year) and massive blunders (Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals), Smith can move on knowing that he’s defying what people mischaracterize him as. No matter what anyone may think about the “100 percent fact” that the NBA has moved on from him, Smith has found his purpose.