Who needs 3s when you can score a 4.0? In the fall of 2021, 16-year NBA veteran JR Smith enrolled at North Carolina A&T State University and joined the golf team as a walk-on. Now, in his second semester at the HBCU, the two-time NBA champion is already earning accolades in the classroom.
On Monday, the 36-year-old — who was originally slated to play basketball at North Carolina before jumping from St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, New Jersey, to the NBA draft in 2004 — was named the Aggies’ Academic Athlete of the Year.
The news comes a week after apparel brand Lululemon signed Smith to be its golf ambassador through a name, image and likeness deal. The athlete known to hoops fans as “JR Swish” is the first male golfer to sign a brand ambassador deal with Lululemon.
In January, Smith signed with Excel Sports Management for NIL representation. At the time, Smith’s agent, Lance Young, told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that there was high interest from golf apparel and equipment manufacturers in sponsoring the enormously popular (6.2 million followers on Instagram alone) college athlete.
Smith first revealed that he was excelling in the classroom at the end of the fall semester. On Dec. 14, Smith took to social media to share he had achieved his goal of earning a 4.0 grade-point average.
In a video posted the same day, Smith was clearly emotional. “I can’t even describe the feeling,” he said. “A lot of hard work went into that s—.”
Smith — who won titles with LeBron James in 2016 as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers and in 2020 with the Los Angeles Lakers — credited a conversation with Basketball Hall of Famer Ray Allen as the catalyst for his decision to petition the NCAA to be eligible to play.
Somewhere out there, Jesus Shuttlesworth is beaming.