Former U of L basketball player Chris Smith has reached the next stage of his career– signing with the New York Knicks as a professional basketball player for the NBA.
Determination, Chris Smith says, is what really sets him apart and has gotten him where he is now.
“Unless you’re just overly gifted, like a super genius, or a super athlete like a LeBron James or something, then your work ethic has to be on a high level.”
Smith mentioned that you not only have to believe in yourself, but also, take charge of your opportunities.
“You have to take every opportunity and put it to work,” he said. “Some people miss their blessing or opportunity because they don’t see the best in it.”
Without determination, it is possible that he may not be in the same place he is today.
“Being a student athlete is great, but it’s actually hard. Athletics take pretty much 90% of your day.”
In addition to determination, Smith also mentioned the role that belief has played in his career up to this point.
“If you keep God on your side, really, God plays a big role. My senior year and junior year of college, when I first got down here, I went to church more and more and more, and then I started praying. The more you pray, the more you believe and your dreams start to fold together.” Today, some would say, the end result of his faith is apparent.
Throughout his college basketball career at U of L, Smith often felt like an underdog, a role he embraced rather than rejected.
“For a guy like myself who wasn’t expected…to excel to the highest level of basketball…it’s actually good to be the underdog because…you can expect the unexpected.”
He recalled when, as a right handed player, he made a left-handed dunk in a game against Rutgers University last season.
“Everyone was pretty much shocked when I did that, but that had actually been a part of my game that I wasn’t able to show [before] … because I was afraid to take risks at times.”
Smith was afraid to take risks not for lack of ability, but because Smith knew that in college basketball, taking a risk such as keeping the ball and using your ability to try and score, could mean losing possession of the ball. Now that he has advanced to the next level of basketball, Smith explains, “I have the freedom to take more risks. There’s more possession in NBA basketball than there is [in] college…You have to be able to show your ability more than within college.”
Some might wonder, especially college students looking forward to their own future careers, how Smith plans to deal with his transition from being a college student to having a high paying job.
Because of the high paying nature of his job, Smith explained that acting around people will become more difficult.
“The crazy thing is like, people think…the money has changed you, but it really has changed them because they look at you different now…I’ve been the same exact person.”
Smith added that he must also be careful to spend wisely.
“You have to prepare for your future and save…you just don’t want to jump in the water not knowing how to swim.” He said that you can’t just take your first paycheck and spend it like everyone wants to do, because “that’s not knowing how to swim.”
For Smith, something that adds to the excitement of becoming a professional basketball player is that he’ll be playing alongside his brother, J.R., on a NBA team.
No one could have expected such a unique pairing of players on one team, something Smith called “probably one of the biggest things in NBA history.”
They are from the same two parents, from the same place and will now be playing for “the mecca of basketball” on the same team. Smith mentioned that, growing up, his mom told them they’d both be playing on the same NBA team one day. Now, what she said has become a reality.
Surprisingly, it has been some time since Smith has actually played basketball with his brother.
“We haven’t played together since we were in bitty league basketball. We haven’t played together since we were…11 and 9…we never had the opportunity.”
Chris and his brother, J.R. Smith, will finally have a chance to catch up, this time playing together in the NBA.
Through his determination and faith, former U of L basketball player Chris Smith has achieved his dream; he has become a professional basketball player for the New York Knicks in the NBA.
“It’s pretty much a dream come true…it’s kind of one of those stories where hard work does pay off.”
Photos: Austin Lassell/The Louisville Cardinal