The Cleveland Cavaliers might be the most famous basketball team in the NBA. It boasts players like LeBron James, and has been to the NBA finals four years in a row, facing off against long-time rival team, Oakland's Golden State Warriors.
The Cavaliers shooting guard J.R. Smith, who earned an estimated $13.76 million in the 2017-2018 season according to sports salary website Spotrac, is famous for his own reasons.
In addition to recent viral attention for a mistake in game one of the 2018 NBA finals against Golden State (the Cavaliers lost the game in overtime), Smith still holds a record from antics in his early career: He's the only NBA player on record by the NBA to be fined for untying another player's shoe laces — it cost him $50,000.
In 2014, NBA officials warned Smith, who then played for the New York Knicks, to stop joking around after he tugged on the laces of former Dallas Mavericks player Shawn Marion during a game. Then, when he again reached for the shoe of a player on the Detroit Pistons, he was slapped with the $50,000 fine for "recurring instances of unsportsmanlike conduct."
The Wall Street Journal once described Smith as the player with, "the most diversified portfolio of infractions." Over his career, he's been fined over $700,000 for everything from technical fouls to tweets, according to Spotrac.
But during the ups and downs of his 14-season career, J.R. Smith has always found a way to regroup, going on to win the NBA title with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016.
"I've always been the one guy who's the butt of the jokes, or that one guy who does something crazy and everybody's got to look at or whatever the case may be," Smith said June 2 about his mistake in game one against Golden State, when he grabbed an offensive rebound and held it, sending the game into overtime.
"Then I come back and be myself and play the next day," he explains. "I don't really dwell on things too much. It's been like that my whole life. That's what it looks like it's going to continue to be."
That ability to rebound from mistakes is what helps Smith ultimately succeed, according to LeBron James.
"He probably took that loss as hard as anybody on the team," James said about game one. "But one thing about J.R., he has an uncanny ability to bounce back. I think people have seen that throughout our postseason runs, where he hasn't played well or played to his ability that he thinks he should have played, and then the next game he comes on and shoots the ball extremely well."
Everybody makes mistakes, and while they might not be as public as that of a nationally known NBA player — gaffes and screw ups can affect any career. Experts say, like Smith, it's important not to be sunk for too long. And the key is learning from your mistakes and evolving.
For Smith, that means occasionally taking time away from the court and playing a round of golf to refresh his perspective.
He tells Celveland.com: "I get to take my mind off basketball for a second and just remember why I'm here and that's to have fun and take it back to when I was a little kid dying to be in this position."
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