Knicks shooting guard JR Smith is usually making headlines for all the wrong reasons. This time it seems that there’s more to the man than everyone has given him credit for. According to ESPN, Smith’s image in the media may actually have been tarnished unjustly. Smith comes across as hard-nosed and stubborn, but he’s actually very likable and sweet according to Brad Hennefer and his family.
Brad is one of JR’s very good friends, and he was born with the genetic disorder known as Downs Syndrome. He was born in Cherry Hill, NJ, and he and Smith met on the golf course when JR was doing a fundraiser. The meeting was arranged by the pair’s fathers, and it was an instant connection. Often times, we see athletes befriending people that they meet from fundraisers and charity events, but this friendship was more than the superficial. Hennefer’s father describes the friendship by saying:
“The first year we played golf here, J.R. played with Brad. Just that whole day with the camaraderie with J.R. and Brad, how they interacted with each other, was just spectacular. J.R. didn’t even know anything about Down syndrome and didn’t know anything about Brad — he just embraced him like anyone else. And it’s just been an awesome story ever since.”
The two connected because of their love for golf and basketball. JR is an avid golfer and plays whenever he has an opportunity. Brad played high school basketball and was also on the varsity golf team. Since graduating high school, Brad runs a program called Golf For Life for children with Downs Syndrome, and he also travels the country as a motivational speaker.
Brad’s father is confident that that work that JR does off the court is outshined by the negativity that is usually aired about JR and had this to say about it:
“What [Smith] does off the court is just unbelievable — what he does for the underprivileged kids through his foundation and what he’s done for the Down syndrome community. It’s amazing what he does.”
It’s nice to hear that this side of Smith does exist. There are so many negative stories about JR circulating, and now we know he’s human just like the rest of us.