Steve Smith had a great basketball career. But if you didn’t watch him play and just did a quick Google search on him, you might disagree. You might not even be that impressed.
I watched him play. And when I tell people he could light up defenses, they respond by saying he only averaged 14 points per game over his career. I say he was an underrated playmaker who deserved the Magic Johnson comparisons, they respond by saying he never averaged more than 5 assists a game. I like to talk about his battles with Michael Jordan and they point out that Smith only made the All-Star team once in his career and shouldn’t be compared to the GOAT. All of those facts thrown back at me are 100% true but this is why I say Steve Smith had a great basketball career.
He knows how it feels to be a college great: Smith attended college for 4 years, led the team in points, rebounds and assists and left as Michigan State’s all-time leading scorer. He was eventually inducted into the school’s hall of fame.
He knows how it feels to be a lottery pick and have a successful rookie season: Smith was the 5th pick by the Miami Heat and was selected to be on the All-Rookie 1st team.
He knows how it feels to have a trademark move: Smith’s “fake spin” (the Smitty) was even called one of the top 5 moves in NBA history by Sports Illustrated — right between Shaq’s drop step and Iverson/Hardaway’s crossover.
He knows how it feels to be a leader: Smith was the leader in Atlanta and led the Hawks in scoring for 4 consecutive years.
He knows how it feels to represent his country: Smith won a gold medal in Sydney in 2000 and also has gold medals for competing in the FIBA Americas Championship (1999) and FIBA World Championship (1994) as a member of Dream Team 2.
He knows how it feels to be an All-Star: Smith was selected to play in the 1998 NBA All-Star game.
He knows how it feels to be an NBA Champion: Smith won a ring with the 2003 San Antonio Spurs.
He knows how it feels to continue having a basketball career once he was done playing basketball: Smith was an announcer for Hawks games before becoming a favorite on NBA TV, doing great interviews like the Mount Rushmore one with LeBron James.
He knows how it feels to give back: Smith has won the NBA Sportsmanship Award, Joe Dumars Sportsmanship Award, William Beckham Community Service Award, J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award and was inducted into the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame for his charity work. Smith has donated over $3 million dollars to his alma mater and created the Steve Smith Scholarship for Academic Achievement.
The last “he knows” is something most basketball players know nothing about. The NBA and NBA teams encourage their players to do a certain amount of work via existing projects and many players do some charitable work on their own but not many know how it feels to donate a large amount of time and their own money to create programs and make contributions that will help future generations, that don’t know much about him, accomplish some of the many great things that Steve Smith has done over his career.
I also had the honor of interviewing Jamal Crawford and talking (36-minute mark) about how he “ended” Smith’s career.