It took nearly 18 months, but J.R. Smith is finally opening up about perhaps the most infamous gaffe in recent NBA Finals history.
Smith, of course, appeared to forget the score of Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals with just seconds left in the fourth quarter, and dribbled out to half court instead of attempting a shot that would have given the Cleveland Cavaliers the win at Oracle Arena. The Cavaliers then fell to the Golden State Warriors 124-114 in overtime.
That moment, more specifically LeBron James’ reaction to it, became a viral meme that seemed to last throughout the entire offseason — if not longer.
Smith spoke out about the moment on Showtime’s “All The Smoke” with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on Thursday. He said he thought George Hill had already put the Cavaliers in the lead when he missed that final free throw, and he didn’t expect to get the ball when Hill missed, either.
Warning: This video contains language NSFW
“So I get the ball, nobody called timeout,” Smith said. “So I’m like, ‘Alright, bet. I’m about to dribble it back out then. Game is about to be over.’
“I look at LeBron, LeBron is pointing like this. I’m like, ‘What the f--k is he pointing at?’”
The Cavaliers eventually lost the NBA Finals to the Warriors that year, and Smith was waived by the Cavaliers in July. He only played in 11 games in Cleveland last season, too, before publicly requesting a trade after publicly airing his frustrations with the direction the organization was going after James left for the Los Angeles Lakers.
The 34-year-old, who has 15-years in the league with four different teams under his belt, is currently a free agent.
While the mistake made waves across the basketball world, then-Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue wasn’t even upset at Smith that night.
“If it’s my fault and you want to pin it on me? Alright, cool … I hit [Lue] that night and I was like, ‘Bro, I don’t even know what to say,’” Smith said. “He was like, ‘Bro, what are you talking about? You made a basketball play and it didn’t work out. It happens.’”
Lue’s response clearly helped. Smith, though obviously upset at the time, didn’t hold on to the error for long.
“I laughed about that s--t that night … I’m not a person to hold on to s--t,” Smith said. “I’m not going to hold on to no grudges. I’ll never forget it … You f--k up. It ain’t the first time. It just so happened that mine was in the Finals. We’ve all messed up.”
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