J.R. Smith is a rare type of individual. He is the kind of NBA player to go from winning the 6th Man Year Award in his best season to date–to being one of the most underachieving players of the following season. There isn’t a better image of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the league, and now sporting a mask to protect his fractured cheekbone, Smith has truly completed his evolution.
It’s arguable to say J.R. is most alive when the nightlife takes hold of him. He has that uncanny ability to dip his finger into the wading pool of nightlife and bring it to a boiling point the way Al Pacino troubled the holy water in The Devil’s Advocate. I have seen J.R. work a room recently at Carmelo Anthony’s Jordan Brand anniversary party at Terminal 23 (Cafe Rouge). Melo commanded the audience as a band leader, which he does regularly as the star of the New York Knicks. Once Smith arrived, the music went from funky and artistic improvisation, to debauchery. He and Melo lit cigars off-stage while the DJ played to the lowered inhibitions of men and women intoxicated by the open bar of alcohol and the allure of each others’ waistlines.
Last night J.R. Smith was nowhere to be found at one of his haunts, W.i.P. in lower Manhattan, but I tried to channel the feeling of a man engulfed by nightlife. The heat from the sparklers attached to the bottles of alcohol carried by bottle waitresses doesn’t measure up to the energy fuming from the overcrowded booths. Women in tight outfits that exaggerate their waist, to hips, to thigh ratio make rubbernecking as routine as breathing. What would J.R. do becomes an afterthought; instead, what would J.R. Smith be moved by musically? On the night when most true hip-hop fans mourn the loss of the late Notorious B.I.G., DJs like the ones on the set at W.i.P. dedicated a portion of their playlist to the fallen Brooklyn icon. As I did my field research for The Knicks Wall, I pulled a good portion of the songs played last night, and added a few of my own that are influenced by J.R.’s notorious reputation as a fun-loving, rabble-rousing individual. Cue the #JRSwishList.