JR Smith: NBA legend takes On College and NIL
From Hitting 3's to Signing NIL Deals and Taking Geometry Classes, In Only 1 Year JR's Life Has Taken a 180 Degree Turn
The Petcash Post is a daily brief that breaks down the business of athletes, sports, and NIL.
Join 24,435 others and get exclusive access to the newsletter 🔑 — it’s free!
This past weekend I was watching the Masters and they did a wonderful feature on JR Smith and his transition from the NBA to college golf.
It got me interested in a few things:
What has JR’s career looked like as a businessman?
What motivated him to become a student-athlete again?
Are there any NIL implications or interest from brands?
Does he have future plans in golf and life?
What I’ve found is quite interesting (and compelling).
Let’s break it down 👇
Some Background Info
J.R. Smith grew up in Clarksburg, New Jersey and attended 3 different high schools before transferring to Saint Benedict’s Preparatory School.
He played football, basketball, and baseball during his high school years, but eventually decided to focus solely on basketball because he believed it was the greatest path for his career.
In 2004, Smith declared for the NBA Draft. He did so after reneging on a commitment to play for coach Roy Williams at UNC.
The New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans) drafted Smith as the 18th pick in the first round. He signed a 3-year, $3.1 million deal.
He immediately made an impact winning the Western Conference Rookie of the Month three times, however, his relationship with the head coach deteriorated and was traded to the Bulls and then the Nuggets within a 7 day span.
JR played a crucial role for the Nuggets consistently being in contention for the NBA Sixth Man of the Year and also the Slam Dunk Contest.
Over the years, he would play for the Zhejiang Golden Bulls (China) and then for the New York Knicks.
Later, he teamed up with Lebron James and followed him to a championship in Cleveland and another one with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020.
After retiring from the NBA in 2021, JR Smith made a unique move back to college.
But what fueled this?
Smith was never a superstar in the NBA, but he still made a lucrative living during his 15 years in the league.
Throughout his career, Smith earned more than $90 million in salary alone.
He’s also enjoyed an array of endorsement deals, including one with American clothing brand Supreme—a deal that sparked an unusual dispute between Smith and the NBA over a leg tattoo that ran afoul of intellectual property policies.
Despite a very successful NBA tenure that included making over $90 million, he regrets spending so much of that money in a materialistic way, and wishes he had given back more to those less fortunate.
“I felt like I had everything, but I still wasn’t whole with me, because I knew there was something missing,” he said.
“We’re so trained, so embedded to have an egocentric mindset, to worry about myself, worry about me, worry about mine. When you make over $100 million in your career, is giving $5 or $10 million going to change your lifestyle?”
Smith didn’t realize that his materialistic spending was a problem until after he walked away from the NBA.
“Athletes make their schools… millions and millions over again… “But the $50,000 to $100,000 you give to HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) — it changes lives.”
And this new mindset is what launched JR Smith into possibly his greatest achievement to date.
JR Smith Takes on College and NIL
Since he never went to college, JR saw immense value in coming back as a student-athlete.
He decided to enroll at HBCU North Carolina A&T and was cleared to play golf in August.
In his college debut, he birdied 2 of the first 5 holes and ended up finishing the tournament at 29 over. This landed him in 81st place.
Being a former NBA star comes with a lot of publicity and excitement for brands in the golf world.
Smith signed a deal with Excel Sports for NIL representation earlier this year and is looking to earn endorsement opportunities under the NCAA's new name, image, and likeness parameters.
It's understandable that companies are looking to take advantage of Smith's celebrity — he has taken the golf world by storm during his time at North Carolina A&T.
Despite this interest, there are no publicly disclosed deals.
Keep in mind that under the NCAA’s rules, Smith can't promote his sponsors at NCAA-sanctioned events, but he can appear in commercials and make references to his affiliation on social media.
One of the hardest things about NIL (especially in golf) is that many of the deals will be with apparel or equipment companies.
For example, Adidas can’t sign JR to a deal since North Carolina A&T is Nike. It would be hard for TaylorMade to do a deal with JR since he can’t promote it during any matches or events.
JR Smith has big plans for the future.
He plans on playing golf all summer and coming back next year improved. One of his goals is to play a round with Tiger Woods to receive some feedback.
Basketball players are arguably the best athletes in the world and the transition to golf is a logical one. There’s no doubt in my mind that if JR sticks with it he could be a major force across the collegiate golf space.
While golf is going great, one of JR’s best achievements is his 4.0 GPA.
His emotion in this video says it all:
Happy Monday. I hope you had a great weekend!
If you haven’t answered these 9 questions, please do so as it helps me write content that you’re interested in (answers are anonymous).