Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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With Big Bro Looking On, Chris Smith Wins Big East Title
NEW YORK — It hasn’t been easy for Chris Smith growing up in the shadows of his older brother.
J.R. Smith was a McDonald’s All-American, a preps-to-pros wunderkind out of St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark and is now a shooting guard with the Knicks.
But on this special night, J.R. was the fan and Chris was a star when he scored 15 points to help Louisville win its second Big East tournament title in four years, 50-44, over Cincinnati at Madison Square Garden.
“To be in the Garden, a historic building, and my brother plays here, it’s the Big East championship,” Chris, a native of Millstone, N.J., said before embracing his brother on the court. “You know, for us to do this, it’s amazing.”
“I’m sure it’s a big deal for him,” J.R. told SNY.tv roughly 12 hours before he and the Knicks will take on the Philadelphia 76ers on this same floor.
“To be his big brother and to be through so much adversity that he went through for so called playing in my shadows but I’m really playing in his shadows.”
J.R. wasn’t able to watch his younger brother all season because he had been playing in China and then the Knicks schedule conflicted.
On Saturday, the same day J.R. was fined $25,000 by the NBA for posting inappropriate pictures on his Twitter, he was able to watch his brother for the first time….and Chris came through by winning a championship.
“That was my motivation the whole time,” Chris said. “That was part of my motivation…because I wanted for him to be able to see me play. This is the first time he got to see me play all year, for the championship and we got it done.”
Said Louisville coach Rick Pitino, a former Knicks coach: “Chris has led a different life. He’s been in with a very celebrated brother, and both of them have been great to coach, and they know what this means. Both of them, Chris had a great game tonight.”
Asked how the brothers might celebrate, J.R. said: “We’ll probably go to my house. I just got a new condo downtown thanks to the Knicks, so it’s going to be great. As a family that’s the way we do everything.”
On Sunday, when J.R. takes the court for the Knicks, losers of four straight, he’ll have a little added motivation in the form of his brother.
“Without a doubt,” he said. “The way he played tonight it definitely gives me extra motivation to go out there and play even harder [Sunday].”
Photo: Michael Singer
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.