He was a starter when they went to the NBA Finals four straight times from 2015 to 2018, and he played a key role in the team bringing Cleveland its first world championship in any sport in over half a century.
After winning another ring with LeBron James in 2020, this time as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, Smith retired from basketball.
Recently, he re-entered the news for a good reason, as he was named the Academic Athlete of the Year after finishing with a 4.0 grade-point average after his first year as a student at North Carolina A&T State University.
His former teammate Kevin Love showered him with love and praise on social media for attaining the accolade.
Kevin Love sends out a special shoutout to former Cavs teammate JR Smith for his recent academic milestone ✊ pic.twitter.com/rWGRHoQWIu
— Paolo Songco (@PaoloSongcoNBA) April 26, 2022
The Cavs Couldn’t Have Gotten To The Top Without Smith
During James’ first stint with the Cavs, they reached the championship series in 2007 and finished with the NBA’s best record two other times, but they had a lack of offensive support around the Akron, Ohio native.
When James returned to The Land in 2014, owner Dan Gilbert and then-general manager David Griffin made sure to not make those mistake again.
Historically, teams that have succeeded with James, whether it was the Cavs, Lakers or Miami Heat, have done so by surrounding him with high-quality 3-point shooters.
Before that, Smith, a native of New Jersey, made his name as a member of the Denver Nuggets during the Carmelo Anthony era.
In 2009, he averaged 15.2 points per game and shot 39.7 percent from 3-point land as his team advanced to the Western Conference Finals.
The Nuggets played Kobe Bryant‘s Lakers to a standstill for nearly five games before falling to the eventual world champs in Game 6.
When Smith came to Ohio, he helped space the floor for James while taking a high volume of 3-pointers and was one of the Cavs’ final pieces.
Unfortunately, he has found his way into the news for some of the wrong reasons over the years, including several motor vehicle incidents that got him in trouble with the law.
But now, he can be considered a good role model.
A New Life
At North Carolina A&T State University, a university located in Greensboro, N.C., Smith is reportedly a liberal studies student.
But his campus life hasn’t just been limited to books and term papers, as he is also a member of the school’s golf team.
Smith has admitted that going back to school wasn’t exactly an easy decision for him.
If I'm being honest at all, I was tariffed to go back to school… Literally, these assignments still make my heads sweat. Overcoming these fears of being vulnerable and open about my disability has given me real power! Power no one will ever take from me!
— JR Smith (@TheRealJRSmith) April 26, 2022
The “disability” Smith mentioned is his attention deficit disorder, something which has been a thorn in his side since he was a little kid.
But like many with the condition, he is not letting it get in the way of profound academic success, and he is apparently on his way to getting his degree.