Former NBA star J.R. Smith named Academic Athlete of the Year at North Carolina A&T 

The two-time NBA champion broke the news on Twitter, retweeting a photo of the award engraved with his legal name, Earl Smith III. 

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Freshman student-athlete J.R. Smith has been named the Academic Athlete of the Year at North Carolina A&T State University. The 36-year-old former NBA star finished his first year at the Greensboro-located campus with a 4.0 GPA. 

According to People, Smith broke the news on Twitter early Tuesday when he retweeted a tweet from Spencer D. Turkin, a North Carolina sports reporter who shared a photo of the award engraved with Smith’s legal name, Earl Smith III. 

J.R. Smith of the North Carolina A&T Aggies lines up a putt on the eighth green to clear during the Phoenix Invitational at Alamance Country Club last October in Burlington, North Carolina. (Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

The two-time NBA champion and former Los Angeles Lakers player is a liberal studies student at North Carolina A&T State, where he’s also a member of the Aggies’ golf team. 

Several of Smith’s former professional teammates shared messages of congratulations Tuesday after the announcement, including friend LeBron James, who wrote, “YESSIR @therealjrsmith!! Proud of you Kid!! Love bro.” 

Smith also shared a tweet about how difficult the first year of school at North Carolina A&T State has been, writing, “If I’m being honest at all, I am tariffed [sic] to go back to school … Literally, these assignments still make my heads sweat. Overcoming these fears of being vulnerable and open about my disability has given me real power! Power no one will ever take from me.”

He later joked about the spelling error in his message, maintaining that his next class would be spelling. 

Despite the challenges, Smith has said he plans to continue his education. He responded “FOR SURE” when asked if he was bound to get a Ph.D. by Internet personality Scooter Magruder. 

Smith was declared eligible to play golf at North Carolina A&T State in 2021, 16 years after going pro in the NBA immediately after high school. As previously reported by theGrio, Smith told The Undefeated that the chance to play golf was particularly exciting, saying, “It was probably one of the most exciting feelings I’ve had in a while. I really didn’t know how it was going to go. … but to be able to actually call myself a student-athlete is a great feeling.”

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