Marcus Smart has collected several awards over the past year for his performance on the basketball court. On Monday, he earned some hardware for his efforts off the floor.
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year was recognized Monday for his impact in the community, receiving the NBA Cares Community Assist Award for the month of October for his “ongoing support for pediatric cancer patients and commitment to creating access to opportunity for inner-city athletes.”
It’s a fulfilling accomplishment for Smart because it emphasizes his compassion outside of work and reveals his true character.
“By winning an award like this, a community award, it shows people that we’re more than just basketball players,” Smart told Celtics.com Sunday evening. “We are human beings like everybody else, we go through similar problems, similar struggles like everybody else, and we see what impact we can make off the court just by taking a little bit of our time.”
Smart devotes a great deal of his free time to hospital visits, zoom calls with pediatric patients and fundraising events for his YounGameChanger Foundation. As someone who has been impacted numerous times by the devastation of cancer, he has made it his life mission outside of basketball to be there for those who are coping with the disease.
“It stems from losing my mom, my brother, a couple of my aunts and uncles from cancer when I was growing up,” Smart said of his passion to support pediatric cancer patients. “I wish I had somebody to come in and take as much interest in helping me or helping my family in ways that we couldn’t even imagine, such as giving us hope, making us feel better, putting a smile on our faces, things like that. I think somebody that people look up to such as an NBA player, any type of athlete, entertainer, or any type of person that they idolize, for them to be able to come and show their support, means more than anything in the world.”
Much of Smart’s compassion was instilled from his mother, Camellia, who passed away in September 2018 after a long battle with cancer. She used to tell him that, as he rose to the top of tier of basketball, to not forget about providing support for those who need it, because he may eventually need their support when he’s on his way back down.
“That stuck really, really, really hard,” Smart said. “Just making sure you treat everybody well because you never know what somebody’s going through and what you might end up going through that you might need somebody else’s help.”
Smart has been providing help in the community ever since he entered the league in 2014. He’s a frequent visitor to Boston Children’s Hospital, where he spends one-on-one time with kids who are undergoing cancer treatment.
The 28-year-old also donates “Smart Carts,” which are mobile charging stations stocked with tablets and video game consoles that provide entertainment for patients during their treatment and recovery. Over the past year and a half, Smart and his foundation have donated carts to seven different hospitals in New England, to a hospital in his hometown area of Dallas, Texas, and to Children’s Wisconsin Hospital in collaboration with the JLH Social Impact Fund founded by Milwaukee Bucks point guard Jrue Holiday and his wife, Lauren.
In November, Smart held his biggest charity event of the year – the annual YounGameChanger Foundation Bowling Bash in Boston, which helps to further support his donation of Smart Carts and laptops to children’s hospitals and communities in need.
Most of Smart’s teammates – and even former teammate Isaiah Thomas – showed up to the event in support of his cause, for which he was grateful.
“We all, in our own ways, we’re involved in our communities, doing things to help others, giving back,” Smart said of his teammates. “And to show up to each other’s events such as mine shows the camaraderie, shows the characteristics that we all have and that we all are together. We’re all one, and we support each other in every way, especially when it comes to giving back.”
Smart goes above and beyond to give back, and he continues to show that his impact is just as strong in the community as it is on the court.
“You never know what people are going through, so giving back to make their lives better in any way and letting them know they are not alone is important to me,” he said. “I am honored to receive this award and will continue prioritizing serving my community.”