It was maybe the most iconic meme of the year. JR Smith grabs a rebound at the end of Game 1 of the NBA Finals, and the Cavaliers have a chance to win it. A win would have secured momentum for the decided underdogs–maybe their only chance to do so–and as he protected the rebound Cavaliers fans dared to hope.
But then, he dribbled away from the basket. And LeBron’s devastated reaction became a viral meme.
Fast-forward to now, and the LeBron-less Cavaliers are allegedly tanking, and JR Smith has made his trade wishes clear. But will anyone take him seriously after last season’s humiliating mistake? Stephen A. Smith said in a recent segment that he may never live it down.
When asked if JR will ever recover from the moment when he cost Cleveland the win in Game 1, Smith replied without hesitation, “No, he will not.”
“It’s not just the mistake that he made,” he explained. “It’s the visible reaction from LeBron that you will always hold on to. Until LeBron James wins a championship again, that will be the defining moment. Every time we talk about Lebron, Lebron, LeBron, and we don’t mention a recent championship, we’re gonna point to the last shot he had. And the last shot he had was that visual right there.”
The “visual” he’s referring to is the meme–the complete exasperation and disbelief written all over James’s face as the game slipped away. The Cavaliers would go on to get swept by the Warriors. They weren’t able to recover.
What’s Next for JR?
It hasn’t been decided where JR will end up, but he’s officially no longer playing with the Cavaliers. He’ll continue working out until he finds a landing spot, and a new home could help him reclaim his reputation as a great player.
The latest is that Smith may find his way to Philadelphia as part of a trade involving Markelle Fultz, though nothing has been confirmed.
Wherever he ends up, his mission should be to prove Stephen A. Smith wrong.