This is how NBA star turned college golfer J.R. Smith got into golf

JR Smith tees off at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, NJ.

J.R. Smith didn't even play golf when he entered the NBA.

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J.R. Smith is perhaps one of the most unlikely college golfers of all time.

Nevermind the junior for North Carolina A&T State University is 6-foot-6 and a 38-year-old former NBA player. Smith wasn’t even playing golf when he began his professional basketball career nearly 20 years ago.

Smith explained his journey into golf on the latest edition of The Scoop with GOLF’s Claire Rogers. It started when friend and fellow NBA player Rashard Lewis invited Smith to a golf outing for Lewis’ charity in the mid-2000s.

“I came out to just show support just because we worked out together, stuff like that,” Smith said. “I go out, just riding around like just messing around, joking on guys. Talking about their swings and whatnot.”

Former NBA player J.R. Smith gets a word of encouragement from head coach Richard Watkins of the North Carolina A&T Aggies during the Phoenix Invitational at Alamance Country Club on October 11, 2021 in Burlington, North Carolina.
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Smith was having a blast without even touching a club. That was at least until an NBA legend called him over.

“Then Moses Malone, the Hall of Famer, he was like, ‘Young fella come hit this ball,'” Smith recalled. “I went out there, hit the ball and hit literally a perfect drive. And I was like, ‘There’s nothing to it.’ Like golf— you don’t have to be an athlete. Essentially.”

Smith was riding high, but it didn’t take long for the future two-time NBA Champion to be humbled.

“Not an hour and a half later, I come back on and I couldn’t hit the ball again,” Smith said.

“It was literally like an addiction, immediately.”

Little did Smith know, he’d end up using the four years of college eligibility he gave up by entering the NBA out of high school in the game he just picked up that day in Houston.

For more from Smith on his college golf journey, check out the full episode of The Scoop below.

Jack Hirsh Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at