“Miss you already” is something that my family always tells each other when we are leaving a family event. Instead of saying “bye”, it’s become second nature to say that. While it started as a joke by cousins, the statement has become more regular nowadays. When the Cleveland Cavaliers waived JR Smith on Monday, I saw myself saying “miss you already” to the legend, a Cleveland legend, to be specific.
This day was inevitable given the fact that after playing in just 11 games in 2018, Smith left the team on November 11 and didn’t return last season. Whether he was going to be traded or eventually waived, Swish was no longer going to be donning the wine and gold. Fast forward to this past Monday, and that inevitable day became reality.
When the Cavs acquired Smith, along with Iman Shumpert, in a three-team trade on July 7, 2015, I was skeptical. I didn’t know the type of player or person JR was. All I knew were the bad parts about him, both on and off the court. Little did I know, just over three years later, Smith would play a huge part in bringing Cleveland its first major sports championship in 52 years.
Say what you want about Smith, whether it’s that you believe he was overpaid, overrated, or just a problem on and/or off the court, but before you say any of those things, take a step back and realize all he did for the Cavaliers, especially in 2016. WFNY’s Andrew Schnitkey did a great job in explaining Smith’s lasting legacy in Cleveland and I completely agree with him.
If you ever question how much Smith meant to the Cavaliers, give me a favor to look up “Cavaliers vs. Warriors, Game 7, June 19, 2016” on YouTube. That will show you everything you need to know. He may have averaged 10.3 points and 2.9 rebounds in 29.3 minutes per game in 255 games (222 starts) with the wine and gold, but it was his 12 points, four rebounds, two assists, and one steal in that game that mean the most.
He played a very key role in bringing Cleveland its first major sports championship in over five decades. Don’t forget, LeBron James may be known for The Block, but if it wasn’t for JR, that likely would’ve never happened. He made Andre Iguodala double-clutch his layup attempt, giving LeBron that split second longer that was needed to make that block. In case you wanted to rewatch that, we have you covered:
Also, with the Cavs trailing, 49-42, at halftime of Game 7, their backs were against the wall. The home crowd in Golden State was loud, Draymond Green essentially couldn’t miss, and the Warriors had everything going in their favor. Then, to start the second half, JR got a hot hand, getting the Cavaliers right back in the game. He scored eight straight points, giving the team a boost in confidence, which was all that was needed to close it out in the end.
There’s not doubt that JR struggled at times, both on and off the court. He’s an emotional dude, both good and bad. It was part of the JR Smith Experience. It’s what made him so great and so easy to root for. That proved itself in Smith’s first postgame interview as an NBA Champion.
It’s ironic that Smith’s last game as a Cleveland athlete was in the Celebrity Softball Game during the MLB All-Star festivities in Cleveland two weeks ago. In a game that was Cleveland vs. The World, that seemed to be the exact mentality Swish had during his time in Northeast Ohio. He did anything and everything possible for the Cavs to be successful and enjoyed himself every step of the way while doing just that. The three-pointers. The celebrations. Everything was pure JR. That’s what made him so great.
If you’re going to celebrate JR and all he did for Cleveland, please do. If you’re going to hate on him, just make sure to include the fact that you’re talking about NBA Champion JR Smith. No matter what the rest of the NBA world thinks about him, JR meant so much to both the Cavs and Cleveland. That’s all that matters in the end, at least for all of us. Cleveland will always be Team Swish.
There’s a reason I haven’t brought up the ending of Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals until now. In all actuality, I didn’t want to at all. JR forgetting the score will always be a meme, but as a Cleveland fan, that will never diminish his legacy. While I wish that would have never happened in the first place, I’m never going to allow that to change the way I think about JR or tarnish his legacy as a Cavalier.
Thanks again, JR. I hope your NBA career continues elsewhere but just remember, Cleveland will always be rooting for you. The perfect scenario would somehow create an NBA team that doesn’t have to wear a jersey, that way you could just be shirtless because let’s be honest, that’s how many will always remember you. Celebrating following Game 7, in the locker room, in Las Vegas, and then back in The Land, you in only your game shorts with no shirt on will be a lasting image. I mean, even one of the many Cleveland T-shirt companies made a shirt that makes it look like the person wearing said shirt is shirtless, covered with all of your tattoos.
You’re an NBA Champion. Don’t ever forget that. Miss you already, Swish.