As Boston's loudest and rowdiest player, Marcus Smart has built up quite an army of haters and naysayers. For years, they have attacked the talented guard for various reasons and looked for any excuse to discredit his value on the court.
But, on Tuesday, Smart got the ultimate payback after he was named the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year. After winning the award, he gave a special shoutout to his biggest critics.
“I’ve always said that without those naysayers, the doubters, what we like to call haters, I wouldn’t be able to go out there and do what I do. They inspire me to continue to strive to be the greatest I can be at what I do. So, what I have to say to them is thank you. Keep it up,” said Smart, per Michael C. Wright of NBA.com.
As the first guard to win since Gary Payton in the late 90s, Smart made history with this achievement, and Payton himself made sure to give the young and talented star his glowing endorsement.
Marcus Smart... he plays hard, he play with a lot of dog in him, and I think that yes, he should win (DPOY). Why not," said Payton.
He has changed a lot of things in a lot of the game. The reason we don't get looked as a guard is because... we don't do the things that I did... I was 94 feet. If I could turn and guard 3-4 times before he gets to half court, and there's only 10 seconds on the shot clock, I've done what I'm supposed to do. They're getting into an offense too late, and they're going to rush. Marcus Smart does the same thing... He makes other people handle the basketball, who ain't supposed to handle the basketball and get into your offense, and he's done that. He's done that all year.
Smart finally got the recognition he deserved, and he seems to be enjoying the fruits of his labor -- but the job at hand is not finished. In fact, the start of the race has barely begun.
For Smart, and his Celtics, there's a bigger battle going on, and this one counts more than any individual award in the game.
If they are able to pull it off, it will validate everything they've been doing all season long.