Where Are They Now: Steve Smith
Posted Dec 21 2006 1:26PM
by Talia Bargil, Legends of Basketball.com
A fan favorite at each of his stops, 14-year NBA veteran Steve Smith continues to capture the attention of basketball enthusiasts, but this time, from a different vantage point.
Entering his second year as the Atlanta Hawks’ TV color analyst, the Detroit native is a natural at talkin’ b-ball and right at home in front of the camera and bright lights. Although broadcasting was not originally in his post-playing plans, Smith says the opportunity has helped make the often-difficult transition into retirement a smooth one.
“Basketball has been in my blood for 30 years, so sometimes it’s hard to just watch, said Smith. “But now I’ve got the best seat in the house, and I’m enjoying my job. I always read about players’ basketball bios, but I now I make sure to learn about their family, their charity work…get to know them as a person.”
Still tackling the nuances of the behind-the-scenes preparing, Smith says he’s got a good thing going. But come summertime, you’ll find the 6’8” scoring machine on the summer league courts and hooping with the guys from his alma mater, Michigan State University. Smith still craves playing the game he grew up on, but knew it was time to call it quits after 14 years of rigorous demands on his body and a schedule that had him in a different city almost every night.
“I knew it was time,” he said. “I left on a high note, my body felt good, and I was really proud of my accomplishments…winning a ring with San Antonio in 2003, playing on the Dream Team II and winning the gold in 1994, I was an All-Star…a lot of accomplishments.”
Perhaps it was fate that led Smith back to Miami to finish his career, the very city he began as a rookie. Selected fifth overall by the Miami Heat in the 1991 Draft, he spent three seasons in the Sunshine State, followed by stints with Portland, San Antonio and Atlanta. He began the 2004-05 season with the newly-formed Charlotte Bobcats, but was reacquired by the Heat during the 2005 trade deadline.
“It was a textbook ending for me,” he said. “My first game back in Miami I received a standing ovation, and it was great to see what they had done with the team since they brought in Pat Riley, Shaq, Wade.”
He missed reveling in another NBA Championship by just one season, and while looking back, that certainly stings, Smith says that his first and only Championship victory helps ease that pain.
While basketball has been a driving force for the personable and pleasant Smith since childhood, his accomplishments and contributions to the game extend far beyond the court. Leaving his mark on all of the NBA communities he played in, Smith’s dedication, generosity and continuous volunteer work earned him the esteemed J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 1998 and the Joe Dumars Sportsmanship Award in 2002. Recently, he was awarded with the William Beckham Community Service Award and inducted into The World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame in recognition of his efforts as a role model.
In the meantime, the philanthropist keeps himself quite occupied with his current community ventures. In 1997, Smith, who believes you can never give too much, donated $2.5 million dollars to MSU which helped construct the Clara Bell Smith Student-Athlete Academic Center, in honor of his late mother, Clara Bell Smith, who died of cancer during his rookie NBA season.
“I have an allegiance to Michigan…I had such a tight-knit family there, with my teammates and coaches,” he said. The university makes you a better basketball player and a better man. My gift was not only to the university, but to the State of Michigan.”
He also maintains the Steve Smith Scholarship for Academic Achievement, wherein he provides students from his alma mater, Detroit Pershing High School, the opportunity to attend MSU. In honor of Smith’s generous gift, the school recognized him by holding “Steve Smith Day” in 2001, when the school’s gym was named after their All-Star 1987 graduate – which he deems a “great moment in his basketball legacy.”
Thus far, three recipients of Smith’s Scholarship have graduated from college and successfully entered the workforce. He maintains a relationship with each individual who benefits from his scholarship and looks forward to when he can say there are 30 or 40 college graduates from his program.
He also serves on several Boards and holds three annual golf tournaments to benefit a number of charities, but, somehow, he still manages to find sparetime.
“I am practicing my golf game and working in real estate, and I spend time with my family,” he said. “I’m getting more and more hours of being a carpool dad.”
While Smith’s sons, Brayden, 7, and Davis, 4, didn’t have too much time to appreciate their Dad’s illustrious NBA career, they’ve got the trophies to prove it.
“I brought Brayden with me on stage after we won the 2003 Championships, and he came along on the parade. They’ve got plenty of pictures to remember it by, and the ring and trophies will all be their’s one day.”
Smith, who remains close with many of his former teammates, including Bruce Bowen, Keith Askins, Eric Snow, Kevin Willis and Mateen Cleaves, has made a tangible impact on so many people from all walks of life. Former Michigan Governor put it best when he said:
“It is so rewarding, for both the state and for Michigan State, to be able to share in the success of one of our own. Steve Smith is creating a legacy – a legacy of honoring one’s parents, a legacy of giving back and a legacy of helping the next young person fulfill his or her dreams. As successful as Steve Smith is now, this act of generosity will endure through the generations. He should be very proud, and we are proud of him.”