Earl Joseph Smith III, known as J. R. Smith (born September 9, 1985, in Freehold, New Jersey), is an American professional basketball player.
Before attending high school, Smith attended Millstone Middle School and graduated in 1999. From there, he moved on to Steinert High School and McCorristin Catholic High School before transferring to Lakewood High School. Smith played high school basketball for the first time at Lakewood High School. He would later transfer to Saint Benedict's Preparatory School and play basketball there as well. During his career there, he would average over 27 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. In the fall of 2003, Smith signed a letter of intent to play at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In April 2004, following a surprisingly strong showing at the McDonald's All-American Game (in which he was named game MVP), Smith decided to forgo college and make himself eligible for the NBA Draft. He was selected eighteenth overall in the first round of the 2004 NBA Draft by the New Orleans Hornets—one of nine players who were drafted that year straight out of high school. In his rookie season, he averaged 10.3 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game.
Smith participated in the Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk Competition in 2005, finishing behind Amar'e Stoudemire and the eventual winner, Josh Smith.
On July 13, 2006, the Hornets formally traded Smith and forward–center P.J. Brown to the Chicago Bulls for center Tyson Chandler. On July 19, 2006, Smith was traded again, this time to the Denver Nuggets for guard Howard Eisley and two 2007 second-round draft picks.
On December 16, 2006, Smith was involved in the Knicks–Nuggets brawl. He was suspended for 10 games.
On February 20, 2007, Smith suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee which required knee surgery. He missed 3–4 weeks.
On October 13, 2007, Smith was involved in an incident at a Denver nightclub. The Nuggets suspended him for the first three regular season games of the NBA 2007-2008 season for his role in the incident.
On July 25, 2008, Smith was added to the Team USA Basketball select team to help the senior team prepare for the Olympics.
On February 10, 2009, Smith was chosen to replace the injured Rudy Gay in the 2009 Slam Dunk Contest.
On April 13, 2009, Smith scored a career-high 45 points on 13-of-22 shooting, as part of a 118-98 home win over the Sacramento Kings. He made a franchise-record 11 three-pointers during the game, which was one shy of tying the NBA record.
For the 2009-10 season, Smith and teammate Chauncey Billups agreed to change jersey numbers. Smith changed to the No. 5 jersey, in order to accommodate Billups' request to wear No. 1, the same number Billups wore with the Detroit Pistons. On December 23, Smith scored 41 points against the Atlanta Hawks which included 10 three-pointers, one shy of his record. Smith shot 10-of-17 from 3-point range.
He finished the 2009-10 season with the second most three-pointers in the league off the bench.
In 2012, after playing in China due to the lockout, he returned to the NBA and signed with the New York Knicks.
Smith's first trip to the playoffs during the 2006-2007 season with the Denver Nuggets proved disappointing. Smith, a 39% 3-point shooter during the regular season, failed to connect on any three-point shots in the first four games and also was criticized for poor decision-making by coach George Karl. After game four, Karl informed reporters of his plan to bench Smith for all of game 5. Karl said, "He's done," and explained his frustrations over Smith's poor judgment to shoot a three late in the game, "I have no idea what planet that came from." Karl told the Associated Press that he had drawn up the play to give the ball to either Allen Iverson or Carmelo Anthony. Karl did not stop there and continued venting over Smith's poor play, "And then, of course the one with eight seconds to go, from 50 feet, I just love the dignity of the game being insulted right in front of me."
Smith had a better showing in his second trip to the playoffs during a first-round matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers. He played 27.0 minutes, averaging 18.3 points per game on 53.5% shooting. He also had a 31.8% three-point shooting percentage. Although the Nuggets were swept in the first round, Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant said in a postgame interview that, "J. R. is a good young player. He was a lot to handle."
On his third trip to the playoffs, Smith averaged 14.9 points per game on 45.4% shooting, providing scoring off the bench. He helped the Nuggets make the Western Conference Finals before losing to the Lakers.
During the 2011 NBA lockout, Smith signed with the Zhejiang Golden Bulls of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). Because he did not secure an opt-out clause, he could not return to the NBA until the end of the 2011-12 CBA season.
On February 1, 2012, Smith scored an impressive 60 points off the bench during a 122-110 victory over the Qingdao Eagles. Two days later, he netted 41 points off the bench in a narrow 119-115 triumph over the Shandong Lions.
During his time with the Golden Bulls, Smith won a Foreign Player of the Week award, and was selected as a starter for the Southern Division All-Stars in the 2012 CBA All-Star Game, but did not play due to "personal reasons."
Individual accolades notwithstanding, Smith was unable to lead Zhejiang into the 2012 CBA Playoffs, with the squad eliminated from contention as of February 12. But this also cleared a path back to the NBA, and he signed with the Knicks five days later, stepping right into the middle of Linsanity.
Off the court
On February 2, 2007, Smith and teammate Carmelo Anthony were involved in a car accident. Neither player was injured in the collision. The only detail released by the team was that the car J. R. was driving belonged to Anthony.
On June 9, 2007, Smith and two passengers were injured in a car accident on Stagecoach Road in Millstone Township, New Jersey, when the SUV he was driving collided with another car. Smith and a passenger, Andre Bell, were ejected from the vehicle at around 5:30 p.m. Smith's vehicle appeared to have gone through a stop sign and collided with the other car. Smith was taken to Jersey Shore University Hospital. Bell suffered serious head wounds before being pronounced dead on the night of June 11. Neither Smith nor the second passenger suffered life-threatening injuries. Smith and Bell were not wearing seatbelts at the time. In October 2008, a grand jury in Monmouth County, New Jersey declined to indict Smith on a vehicular manslaughter charge stemming from the accident.
On June 30, 2009, Smith pled guilty to the June 2007 accident. Smith was initially sentenced to 90 days in a Monmouth County (N.J.) jail, but 60 of those days were suspended, on the condition that he completes 500 hours of community service. On July 31, 2009, the Denver Post reported that Smith was released from jail after serving only 24 days of his sentence.
On August 28, 2009, Smith was suspended 7 games for the 2009-2010 NBA season because of his guilty plea in the 2007 reckless driving incident. The NBA also cited his poor driving record as grounds for the suspension. Smith's driving record included five suspensions in eight months, but was "in good standing" at the time of the crash in New Jersey. He was required to pay restoration fees and fines. Smith totaled 27 points against his record from April 2005 to January 2006, including eight violations on seven different days. Five citations were for speeding. Since the accident, he has received two more speeding tickets and three license suspensions in New Jersey.
On August 5, 2009 Smith closed his Twitter account (jr_smith1) because he was accused of writing in a way that reflected the Bloods gang, specifically replacing his c's with k's.
In March 2012 Smith was fined $25,000 by the NBA for posting a picture of model Tahiry Jose on his Twitter account.
In May 2012, Smith was arrested in Miami Beach, Florida for failing to appear in court in 2011 (for operating a motor-scooter with no valid license).
Smith has two daughters. Knicks teammate Carmelo Anthony is their godfather. Smith has a younger brother named Chris who played for the University of Louisville. They regularly practice together, especially over the summer.