In case you missed it Sunday night, the New York Knicks defeated the Dallas Mavericks, 92-80. Perhaps the bigger story is the stunt that J.R. Smith pulled in the middle of the game. While Dirk Nowitzki was in the middle of free throws, Smith purposely untied Shawn Marion‘s shoe. There was no attempt to hide the charade as Marion watched Smith grab and pull his shoelace.
The NBA has seen its fair share of gamesmanship such as trash talk, the famous LeBron James baby powder move and even the occasional hand gestures, but a player untying an opponent’s shoelace mid-free throw shot is a new one. Sure, it might seem funny and like harmless play, but Smith is no stranger to controversy and suspension. He was suspended at the beginning of this season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, he has received dirty looks for his comments on social media and he has simply been a nuisance his entire career.
That being said, Smith deserves a hefty, unpaid suspension for this stupid prank. Enough of David Stern‘s slap on the wrists because it clearly has done nothing to change the way Smith behaves on and off the basketball court. You are a professional athlete who makes millions of dollars playing a sport. Your face can be seen on television, computer and cell phone screens across the entire world. Oh, and you play in the biggest media market in the United States and you untie an opponent’s shoelace. What kind of message does that send to all the children who look up to you and all the fans who watch you play night after night?
It sends the message that immaturity and foolishness is acceptable. It sends the message that acting like an idiot will bring success. That isn’t how it works! Smith is one of the few who are lucky enough to play a childish game and make serious cash doing so. However, it is like what Uncle Ben says to Peter Parker: “With great power, comes great responsibility.”
It is the truth. Professional athletes have a great power and also a great responsibility. The youth of the world looks up to them. Millions and millions of kids dream that one day they will hit the game-winning shot or throw the go-ahead touchdown. Smith has failed miserably at being an ambassador for today’s youth. He has done nothing more than disappoint and set the wrong example. The NBA would be foolish not to suspend Smith for his latest act. Stern, finally do something right for once and suspend Smith, not for a game or two, but for at least 10. It is time for that punk to learn, one way or another because he currently does not deserve the fame or fortune associated with being a professional basketball player.