J.R. Smith Advances The Post-Career College Life With New Lululemon NIL Sponsorship Deal

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J.R. Smith has been in a class all his own for almost 20 years. The 2004 draftee turned North Carolina A&T student-athlete has landed a name, image, and likeness, or NIL, deal with activewear company Lululemon.

His consistency as a professional athlete earned him two NBA championships with LeBron James on two teams: Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Like LBJ, Smith is a high school-to-the-pros player that lived up to his potential in the pros. Smith is now living his best life as a full-time college student who can focus on his other sports passion, golf.

The First

Smith is Lululemon’s first male golf ambassador, according to ESPN. Under the NCAA’s current NIL rules, Smith can’t promote his sponsors at NCAA-sanctioned events. However, Smith can appear in commercials and reference his NIL affiliations on social media.

Additionally, his NIL agreements cannot include a performance bonus related to his respective sport.

In January, Smith signed a deal with Excel Sports Management for his NIL representation.

A New Day

Although Smith earned over $90M during his NBA career, he is letting the NIL world open for business as a college student. Smith played high school basketball at New Jersey basketball powerhouse Saint Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark.

He entered the NBA out of high school after being selected in the first round of the 2004 NBA draft. Smith was the 18th overall pick by the New Orleans Hornets.

He has also played for the Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks, and the Zhejiang Golden Bulls of the Chinese Basketball Association.

A Stellar Career

Smith was a key starter for the 2015-16 Cavaliers team, overcoming a 3-1 deficit against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Final to win a chip. In Game 3 of the 2020 NBA Finals for the Lakers, his work helped them secure the 2020 NBA championship.

Smith enrolled at North Carolina A&T State University to pursue a degree in liberal arts. Afterward, he quickly joined the Aggies’ golf team.

With Lululemon, Smith is successfully branding his journey as many companies seek to take advantage of his celebrity and unique position as a former professional athlete going to college for the first time.

New Opportunities For All

Smith hasn’t played in the NBA since he last dressed for the Lakers during the 2019-20 season, and, technically, he never retired from the NBA.

Smith is the first athlete to leave the league and begin his post-professional career at a college during the NIL era. Interestingly, Smith is attending an HBCU when Deion Sanders and more are placing much attention on the HBCU athletics marketplace.

HBCUs Are Starting To Win

Sanders’ son Shedeur signed a NIL deal with Beats By Dre, and the Sanders family is uniquely elevating the profile of HBCUs.

Smith’s golf focus is unique as he joins other NBA players like Steph Curry, who has championed golf at Howard University. Smith is not only blazing a trail for the players seeking to continue their education but showing how it can be profitable to go back to school.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.