Whether you’re a kid growing up, loving sports, you’ve envisioned yourself playing alongside your biggest sports idol. Especially if you’re ever playing a game like NBA 2K or Madden, and you’re in career mode. Thinking about how it’d feel to both play with and possibly win a championship with the person you grew up idolizing.
That’s basically how it was for JR Smith, when talking about his time in Cleveland with LeBron James. Being able to share the court with someone as renowned as him naturally made Smith want to step up his game. But what most don’t know about, according to the former teammate, is the amount of mental fortitude one has to have when playing with James.
Here is Smith had to say:
“It’s a gift and a curse playing with Bron,” he said. “I love Bron to death and I love playing on his team because for me, I feel like I thrive more under the pressure, but a lot of guys don’t like it.”
Me personally, I wouldn’t be too fond of it either. While playing with your hero is fun, and I’m no stranger to taking criticism, there’s also a lot of expectation placed on both you and your entire team to make the playoffs. To compete for the chip in the NBA Finals.
You ever see that meme on the internet of James and Smith, with James holding his hands out looking like he’s losing his mind over something Smith did? Yeah, that was when they were playing against the Golden State Warriors in the 2018 NBA Playoffs. Smith reportedly ran the clock out to send the game into overtime, rather than taking a chance to put the game away with a potential buzzer beater.
Smith made it clear that LeBron was not without blame:
“He missed a free throw too. Don’t just look at me because I missed a open shot. We all missin’ out here!”
That meme still lives rent-free in the heads of NBA Twitter.
"He missed a free throw too. Don't just look at me because I missed a open shot. We all missin' out here!"
J.R. Smith (@TheRealJRSmith) on the pressure of playing with LeBron James. pic.twitter.com/lhBj896YqA
— Game Theory with Bomani Jones (@GameTheoryHBO) March 7, 2023