Once in a while fans across the 30-team NBA board have amazing experiences interacting with their favorite player. It may be a chance meeting, free tickets to a game, or it can even be what @KristinSanity experienced: a day with J.R. Smith, shooting guard of the New York Knicks, his family and golfing for a purpose.
Here’s her story :
About a month ago, I saw the unlikeliest link sent out on Twitter. JR Smith, newly re-signed to the Knicks, was having a charity golf tournament and inviting the public, the world of twitter no less, to participate. Having played golf for over 20 years, being an avid Knicks fan, AND a job seeker trying to get back into the world of sports and entertainment, I knew this was a perfect opportunity.
A little background on me, I’ve been a Knicks fan for my entire life. I love my team but am pretty critical and cynical about them, probably more so than most fans. As for JR, I’d known of him as a player for years, and last season in March when he was finished in China and the Knicks signed him I was ECSTATIC, he was by far the best free agent candidate out there and lord knows the Knicks needed the help. During the end of the season and into the Knicks (short) playoff run, there were highs, lows and moments with JR that made Knicks fans shake their head, but all in all, I couldn’t wait for them to re-sign him and when they made it official this summer, I immediately decided JR was my favorite Knick along with newly acquired Jason Kidd. I needed someone to root for and some of the other candidates on the team were far out of contention. I consider myself a good judge of character, and I headed to New Jersey to further figure out the sometimes enigmatic JR Smith.
The golf tournament, held at Eagle Ridge Golf Club in Lakewood, NJ, benefited the JR Smith Youth Foundation, a non-profit entity that’s mission is “Opening doors for tomorrows youth.” This was the 6th annual golf tournament held, and the 2nd year at Eagle Ridge. Profits from the tournament and other monies raised are distributed to organizations that provide opportunities and support for youth through sports, the arts and education among others. I arrived around lunchtime and was greeted by members of the Smith family. This was truly a family affair, as Earl Smith runs the foundation. Earl was on hand along with JR’s mom, Anita and JR’s sister Stephanie. There were also other family and friends that assisted throughout the day. The Smith family treated every participant like a close friend. Golfers were treated to a lunch buffet, along with receiving a gift bag. There was a contingent of Knicks on hand to support JR—including head coach Mike Woodson, assistant coach Herb Williams, and assistant GM Allan Houston. It was great to see the support for JR, especially from Coach Woodson, who’s made it a point to support various things that his players have been involved in.
I was matched up with three other golfers and we immediately all clicked and ended up having a great time. One of the golfers was a teaching pro at the course (very helpful for our golf!) who was also JR’s teacher in middle school. There’s no better judge of a person than to hear what they were like in middle school, and I was not at all surprised to find out that JR was a caring, student who worked hard even if school didn’t come easy all the time. As for our golf, not much to write home about, but we still played pretty well and above all had an awesome time. There were signs of the NBA all over, as the NY Knicks and CAA Sports were two of the generous sponsors that lent their support for the event. We did sneak over to watch the Knicks foursome tee off on one hole and they could all hit the ball a mile. Yes, I was jealous.
After golf, we headed to a great dinner where there was a raffle and a silent auction. I ended up winning a signed JR Smith jersey which can double as a dress on me. I will proudly wear this to games next season autograph and all!
Overall I had a great day and really got a better idea of JR Smith as a Knick AND a person. I truly believe that while JR has made his fair share of decisions that maybe he would like to go back and change, there is a part of him that is misunderstood. I truly believe that he is a great person with a huge heart, who wants to do the right thing on and off the court. From a basketball perspective, JR looked like he could go drop 40 after playing golf the entire day. Unlike other Knicks, conditioning is not a concern for him! I believe that JR will have a breakout season for the Knicks and am looking forward to witnessing it.