J.R. Smith says the NBA ‘100 percent’ blackballed him after his 2018 Finals blunder

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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most infamous moments in Cleveland Cavaliers history came in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals.

In that game, former Cavs guard J.R. Smith failed to take advantage of a chance to win the game in regulation with just seconds left on the clock. The Cavs were incredibly overmatched in that series versus the Golden State Warriors, and Game 1 would have been a crucial win.

Countless memes were made of teammate LeBron James’ indignant reaction to the blunder.

Ultimately, the Cavs lost that game and the series in a four-game sweep.

Now, Smith has come forward to claim that he believes he was “100 percent” blackballed by the NBA after committing the costly blunder.

“Despite all of that, it seems that J.R. Smith has been remembered only for his worst moment on the floor, as his Game 1 blunder in the 2018 NBA Finals seems to play in perpetuity,” Pierce Simpson of Complex wrote. “A moment that has followed J.R. throughout the rest of his tenure in Cleveland, throughout another championship — this time with the [Los Angeles] Lakers — and to his sudden exile from the league. Something he feels was deeper than just his play. When asked if he feels he was blackballed from the NBA, J.R. was as candid as he can be.

“’Yeah, 100 percent,’ he says. ‘Anybody can sit here and tell you that that’s a fact.’”

It is an interesting take to be sure. That’s especially true considering the fact that Smith’s career did not end after that season. He played 11 games in the following season with the Cavs before the two sides parted ways.

It was Smith who seemed more inclined to finish his time with the then-rebuilding team, and the hope on the team’s side was surely that it would be able to trade Smith for some future assets.

After that point, Smith could have accepted a buyout. Understandably, he seemed more interested in getting the full amount of his remaining contract rather than accepting a reduced amount that would have allowed him to sign elsewhere.

He then went unsigned until very late in the 2019-20 campaign and signed with none other than the Lakers, the team James joined after leaving the Cavs in 2018.

Smith played just six regular season games for the Lakers, but saw the court in 10 playoff games. He played a small role in the Lakers winning a title in 2020.

It was then that his NBA career came to an end. By a lot of metrics, he went out on top by claiming a second career championship.

Though Smith feels as though he was blackballed by the NBA, it seems more likely that he simply lost too much of what made him an effective player with age.

Hopefully, he’ll be able to look back at the end of his NBA career in a more positive light with time.

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Jonathan is a freelance writer, filmmaker, and passionate fan of the NBA. In the past Jonathan has covered politics, entertainment, travel, and more. He is a proud contributor of Cavaliers Nation.