“Stop Asking Them [Owners] For Sh*t…What Are We Asking Them For?” | J.R. Smith Keeps It A Buck On Athletes’ Ability To Transform Communities

BURLINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA - OCTOBER 11: J.R. Smith of the North Carolina A&T Aggies checks his course book during the Phoenix Invitational at Alamance Country Club on October 11, 2021 in Burlington, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Former NBA player J.R. Smith is the latest guest on the “I AM ATHLETE” podcast with Brandon Marshall, and the 2013 Sixth Man of the Year and two-time champion kept it all the way real. Smith talked about athletes’ mindsets as relates to what they can do to help their communities and the power of wealth.

“We’re in the bubble, George Floyd happens, and we stop playing,” Smith said. “Everyone is like ‘what we gonna ask the owners for?’ Stop asking them for sh-t! What are we asking them for? I went down the line, no bullsh-t. You can ask these dudes. I got Paul George sitting right here, I got DeMar DeRozan sitting right here, I got Russell Westbrook sitting right here. I’m literally sitting next to all these dudes who are LA guys. I’m like, bro, I’m not counting your chips but everybody else is. You make $200 (million), you make $200 (million), you make $175 (million), you make $150 (million), and you make $180 (million). Why don’t y’all have your own gym? Why we gotta go to UCLA to work out every time? Y’all come from the exact same community. You want to inspire kids that look like you? All it takes is five of them.”

Don’t worry about the fact that Smith listed five salaries but only three players. His point is valid and a good one. The upper echelon of NBA players makes a lot of money. They earn it and then some, to be fair. But what could things look like if players pooled their resources? It could be transformative.

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The NBA is full of LA guys, DMV guys, NYC-metro guys. Imagine if they pooled their resources and opened gyms in these areas and communities. They can have pickup runs when they’re in town, and members of the community can manage them and use them for all types of activities.

This is a measured and mature take from Smith who has grown a lot since his early playing days.

In 2021 Smith enrolled at North Carolina A&T State University seeking a degree in liberal studies and joined the Aggies golf team. He routinely posted on social media about studying for quizzes and tests and playing golf for the school. 

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Later in the episode Smith talked about getting out of the “eurocentric mindset,” that he was once beholden to.

“We’d rather go throw $60,000 in the strip club than go feed 2,500 people in the hood. I could’ve fed my whole community ten times over with the money I was just [paying fines for] being late on the bus. I was so wrapped into me, I got that Euro-centric mindset: I need this designer jacket, I need these jeans, I need this bookbag, I need to be looking like this because the vets got this, I’m pushing this car. Why? Who am I impressing? I’m not even fulfilled with me.”

Not so sure that’s “Eurocentric,” as opposed to the consumer mindset in a capitalist economy. In capitalism the focus is on the individual, rather than the community. The benefits are skewed toward those that prioritize self and profits above all else. So in that regard, Smith was behaving like many others do.

But it seems he’s had an awakening, or he’s reached a level of self-knowledge where he no longer wants to participate in society in that way. Good for him and he should be commended.

If he’s able to change the minds of some of his peers to look into what they could accomplish with pooled resources for Black and Brown communities, that’s even better.


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