Former NBA star J.R. Smith, who last we saw baptizing white boys in beatdowns during the George Floyd protests, is a man of many talents.
His expertise on the basketball court goes without saying, but he’s equally adept on the fairway. So perhaps looking to follow in the footsteps of other two-sport titans such as Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders, the two-time NBA champion has enrolled at North Carolina A&T State University to pursue a degree in liberal studies and play on the school’s golf team, per the PGA Tour.
The 35-year-old’s circumstances are unique since he went straight to the NBA after graduating high school, he never played college basketball. As such, his opportunity to compete as a collegiate athlete shouldn’t be in question. And now that his 16-year NBA career is in the rearview mirror, it’s the perfect time to collect on the
40 acres and a mule four years of college eligibility he believes he’s due. So with classes beginning on Aug. 18, he’s waiting for the NCAA to determine that he’s eligible to hit the green.
“It’s a big deal for A&T. It’s a big deal for him,” Richard Watkins, who coaches both the men’s and women’s teams at the prestigious HBCU, said. “It’s not very often that somebody in his position really has an opportunity to have a thought, a dream, an idea, and to be able to go ahead and move in that direction.”
He added, “He’s a former professional athlete, but (it’s) a unique set of circumstances. He didn’t go to college, never matriculated, the clock never started.”
Aside from never playing college basketball, Smith also has the NCAA’s new NIL policy working in his favor, which still allows him to cash in on his name, image, and likeness but now as an amateur athlete. Further aiding his case is the fact that he’s never golfed professionally.
“Golf is one of those games that has you feeling really high and or can bring you down to your knees and humble you,” he said. “And to have that feeling and knowing that all of the game’s pretty much on my own hands and I don’t have to worry about teammates to pass the ball and receiving passes and playing defense so, I can play my game and just have fun.”
The former Denver Nugget credits NBA legend Ray Allen with planting the seeds for Smith’s decision to return to school and play golf. And after first coming across the sport 12 years ago at a charity event, Smith believes his time is now.
“[Ray] was talking about some of the things he was doing by going back to school,” he said. “Challenging yourself and stuff for us athletes.”
Now we just need the NCAA to hurry up give him the green light so he can bring his eccentric play and personality to the golf course.