As athletes at the top of their game and playing for the best basketball league in the world, NBA players make a large amount of money. While role players can set themselves up for life with an NBA stint, the superstars cross that border and generate enough wealth to last for their families even when they are gone.
However, aside from those select few that these stars are close to and hang around, a lot of minorities face several problems with money and poverty in the United States. This is also true for the black community and even though prominent athletes and figures are trying their best to alleviate the issues, many of them continue to persist at a systemic level.
Speaking on the iamathlete podcast, JR Smith gave his opinion on what the players can and should do for the members of their community that are struggling, instead of spending all their money on themselves and their friends to have a good time.
"Realistically, Y'know I mean, people can change their lifestyles with $10 million in our hood? We were in the bubble, George Floyd happens, we stop playing. We're in there, 'What we gonna ask the owners for, what we gonna ask the owners for?' Stop asking them for sh*t. What are you askin' em for?
"I went down the line... I got Paul George sitting right here, I got DeMar DeRozan sitting right here, I got Russell Westbrook sitting right there. I am literally sitting right here next to all these dudes who are LA guys. I'm like bro, I'm not counting your chips, but somebody else is. So you make 200 (million dollars), you make 200, you make 150, you make 180, why don't y'all have ya own gym? Why we gotta go to UCLA to work out while we're in LA every time? Y'all come from the exact same community, you wanna inspire the kids that look like you? Only takes 5 of us, 5.
"250, 250, 250, 250, 250, what bank going to turn us down? We bout to build this whole sh*t out for our community. We gon' build gyms, rec centers, start leagues all that. Who gon' stop us? We got the money. We don't have the mindset. We’d rather go throw $60,000 in a club, in a strip club. Go throw $60,000 than go feed 2,500 people in the hood.
"Think about it, I can't sit here and be like, I'm a hypocrite, I've done this myself. I've thrown money in the club literally mindlessly, aimlessly drunk at a bar. Now, I sit back and I'm like, I'm a stupid a** 'n****'. I could have fed my community 10 times over with the money I was just... Cuz I was so wrapped into me, I got that Eurocentric mindset. I need this designer jacket, I need these jeans, I need this bookbag, I need to be looking like this cuz the vets got this, they got pushin' this car... Why? Who am I impressing, I'm not even fulfilled with me."
The host Brandon Marshall then went on to ask JR when he realized this and when all of it clicked for him in terms of what he needed to be doing, with JR revealing that it was after he won his first championship.
"It clicked for me, probably the year after we won the chip. The year after we won the chip, I felt like I had everything, and I still wasn't whole with me cuz I know something was missing. And for a long time, I went through a bad depression because I couldn't figure out what it was. Like, I've always had this mission because my parents have instilled in me to help my community, to help my people, help people around me, help people who look like me.
"It was always about the kids when I was growing up with my pops, it was always about the kids. And I've always wanted to do something like that, but I couldn't, I was tired of putting my name on it. And not being on the forefronts of it. Like, I'm tired of being a person talking about it and not being a person walking it. That I can't tell you to help with this and this and that, if I'm not doing.
"I'm putting young people, young brothers who look like me, in a worse situation. They look up to me so they think, this is cool, they say he did this, he did this and that, he threw soup on the coach or whatever, they think that sh*t is cool. Look at what we glorify. Strip club, getting high, setting people up, killin' people, look at what we glorify. They put millions and millions of dollars into this. Record labels put billions of dollars into this. They selling it."
This is an incredibly profound analysis from JR Smith, a comprehensive look into many of the issues that are affecting the black community in the United States. The fact that he is trying to do something about it speaks volumes to the growth that Smith has personally gone through since his earlier days in the league. The hope remains that some concrete action can materialize thanks to his words and that players can work together to create a brighter future for their communities.