How Josh Smith Changed My Life - A Nostalgic Memoir

How Josh Smith Changed My Life

Apr 5, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks small forward Josh Smith (5) scores a basket against the Philadelphia 76ers during the second half at Philips Arena. The 76ers defeated the Hawks 101-90. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

My  favorite player, my idol, my hero, might be leaving me. Leaving me stranded on an island. Leaving me sitting on the side of the road. Leaving me rooting for a team that plays games almost 1000 miles away. I can’t be mad at him. Without Josh Smith, I wouldn’t be here, on Soaring Down South, to tell you this story.

December 2009 – I’m your average 7th grader. I have always loved sports but I was too impatient to appreciate them for what they truly are. I buy an Xbox 360 with my Christmas money and start playing with friends. A few of them spend lots of time playing NBA 2K10. “Looks cool” is what I probably thought, giving no proper thought to the conversation. It was way cooler than I realized then. It took me a while to appreciate it, but for good reason.

October 2010 – NBA 2K11 goes on sale. I rush to the store on opening weekend to grab a copy. My friend, Noah, had told me that this was supposed to be the “BEST GAME EVER, DUDE,” or something like that. As it turns out, it was. I had so much fun playing the different game modes and I learned the NBA rosters each day I played. I had watched ESPN religiously, but never paid attention to names other than the biggies, like LeBron or Dirk (remember, I live in Texas). One fall day, I found myself playing a MyPlayer matchup against the Atlanta Hawks. “Hey, they have that Silent Superstar guy they talk about on SportsCenter,” I probably thought. I’m, of course, a natural at 2K, so I find myself dominating these virtual Hawks for most of the game. But then something happened in that game that was unexplainable, unfathomable, I’m-getting-chills-while-writing-this-able. In what seemed to be a simple play, Josh Smith intercepted a teammate’s pass and had the floor to himself on the fastbreak. Those next 3 seconds would change my childhood forever.

He did the coolest thing I had ever seen. Not even video game worthy, but , alas, J-Smoove jumped off the screen (or so it seemed). He did a 360 reverse-clutch dunk that made me scream, or cry, or say something like, “Whoa nelly!” or “What just happened?” Who was this monster of an athlete, I thought. I spent the next 3 hours watching YouTube clips of him destroying opponents down low, rejecting some of the best players in the game into the stands, and performing highlight reel plays as if they were normal for him. He was so special. Special in a way I can’t describe today and may not be able to describe thirty years from now. Everything seemed so easy for him. This guy, some random video game character, had just become my favorite player.

December 2010 – It’s Christmas time, again! My parents gave me a Smith jersey and I was addicted to it. I wore it nonstop; couldn’t take the thing off me. About this time I started to periodically check in on the Hawks, Smoove’s stats, and set alerts on my iTouch for the games. Noah, my friend from earlier, was a huge Dwight Howard fan and, by default, a Magic supporter. We took on the roles of our favorite teams and became “rivals” every-time the other’s team would take the floor. Basketball was starting to separate itself from the other sports as my favorite (that title is now shared with baseball).

April 2010 – Playoff fever! The Hawks were playing Noah’s Magic in the opening round of the playoffs and I was more than pumped. We decided to bet $10 (Hey, we were in 8th Grade) on the series and also, the loser had to wear the other team’s jersey for a school day. Those six games were the most exciting nights of my life. I was jumping up and down in front of my TV every night they played and relishing in the fact that the Hawks had beaten the Magic in outstanding fashion. Noah wore my Smith jersey to school, but I took it from him at lunch because I was worried he would damage it. I had another friend, Mitchell, who was a big Bulls fan. The Hawks fell to them in six games in the 2nd Round, but I was still overjoyed from the Magic win and from Jeff Teague’s great performance.

December 2011 – The lockout season was beginning and, I was turning into a legit superfan. I checked the Hawks’ Google News feed every morning, at lunch, and after school almost every day. I watched every game I could on the major networks and online if I could find a stream (sorry FCC). However, that wasn’t properly fulfilling my Hawks needs. I made a Twitter just for the use of tweeting at J-Smoove. That’s it. I continued watching and tweeting, but no response.

April 2012 – On my birthday, April 2nd, Josh Smith retweeted my comment (which probably said something like “Josh you da bomb dot com boii” or something like that) about his recent game versus the New York Knicks. My life was undeniably awesome. The next day, he responded to my question asking who he thought would win the Final Four. I thought I was hot stuff. But, alas, the Hawks lost to the Celtics in six games and I was disappointed. There’s always next year.

June 2012 – The Hawks hire Danny Ferry to be the new GM. I’m aware that Smoove is going to be a free agent next season, so I worry that he might get traded. Boy, was I wrong. He traded away Joe Johnson, with whom I shared a love/hate relationship, and Marvin Williams, who I laughed at repeatedly (#BUST). Going into the Las Vegas Summer League, I was excited to watch new Hawks John Jenkins and Mike Scott and my fan-card seemed to change its motto from “die-hard” to “analytical realist”. With Smoove on the team for the 2012-2013, I was excited and ready for basketball.

October 2012 – It was time for training camp and I was counting down the days until I could watch my Hawks play on TV again. My Hawks hat had been worn down from being out in the sun all summer and I waited endlessly for those meaningless preseason games to end. League Pass had been ordered, Tweeters had been followed, and my appetite for good basketball was growing.

April 2013 – The Hawks are in the playoffs and Josh Smith is certainly a reason. From October to now, I’ve gotten a job here at Soaring Down South and things can’t be better. All because I’ve been following bloggers on Twitter. All because I watched too much Summer League. All because I cheered too hard in the playoffs. All because I won that bet with Noah. All because I bought NBA 2K11. All because I like Josh Smith.

It’s that time in the story where the narrator uses fancy figurative language to display their message. Well, that’s no fun, so I’ll put it out there plain and simple. Josh Smith is my favorite player. His jumpers make me cringe. His dunks make me dance. But, even if he leaves Atlanta in free agency, his game will always make me smile.

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