LeBron James gave an assist to Knicks president Phil Jackson for the Cavaliers winning the NBA championship.
When Jackson tore down the Knicks’ roster and tried to change the culture during the 2014-15 season, he sent J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to Cleveland for draft picks and cap space. The Cavaliers initially weren’t interested in Smith, but the Knicks insisted they take him or they couldn’t have Shumpert.
Smith, who has had a career checkered with transgressions, has become a valuable two-way player for the Cavaliers. James and Smith shared an emotional moment after winning the title.
“I know what J.R.’s been through in his career,” James said Sunday night. “People counting him out and saying he’s this, he’s that. Just understanding what J.R.’s been through and people just saying that there’s no way he can be a winner.
“When our GM came to us last year and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got a deal to get Iman Shumpert, and the Knicks are going to throw in J.R.’ I was like, ‘What? They’re going to throw in J.R. into the deal?’ I was like, ‘OK. I’ve got him. I got him.’
“J.R. turned himself into not only a huge boost to our team, but he turned himself into a two-way player, both sides of the floor. And I think those emotions came out of J.R. at the end of this game.”
The tears continued to flow for Smith during the news conference. It was Father’s Day and Smith broke down as he honored his father Earl, who was in the room.
“My parents, my family, that’s the biggest inspiration in my life,” Smith said. “I’ve been in a lot of dark spots in my life, and if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be able to get out of it.
“My dad is easily one of my biggest inspirations to play this game. To hear people talk bad about me, it hurts me because I know it hurts him, and that’s not who I am. And I know he raised me better, and I know I want to do better. Just everything I do is for my parents and my family.”