J.R. Smith has always been a kid at heart. Early in February, after missing everything but oxygen and nitrogen on a free throw attempt, Smith tried his hand with the kids during halftime of the Knicks 99-85 win over Detroit. The kids famously refused to toss him the ball. Things were a little different when Smith came to the Chelsea Piers Sports Center to help the Saban’s Power Rangers ball with some lucky kids to help celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Power Rangers franchise.
Smith was on hand before the yearly Knicks Bowl at Chelsea Piers, but he was totally engrossed in the kids he had come to see, flanked by more than 20 Power Rangers.
It wasn’t every Power Ranger, just the red one (which, strangely, I don’t remember from the television show of my youth). But with at least 20 Red Power Rangers in full red regalia (I think I even saw a cape), there was no shortage of Power Rangers to pass with for the assembled children. When Smith stepped onto the court in tan colored cargo pants and a blue button down with some sneakers and rolled sleeves to show he meant business, the kids rushed over amid excited chants of “He’s here!” J.R. shot around with the kids for a few minutes, and then posed for photos. The group then lined up to exchange passes with Smith and a Red Power Ranger that had managed to fit a Knicks jersey over their helmet.
It was particularly fun watching Smith playfully stripping the ball from the kids before shouting out encouragement after every made basket. Eventually, the kids were formed into something resembling a line, and all of them got a chance to pass to Smith before he launched a shot, ostensibly earning every kid there an assist, even though Smith wasn’t perfect from a step inside the three-point line. After all the kids got a chance to ball with Smith, assembled media got a few minutes to speak with him. Before we got a chance to talk, Smith sent out a tweet about the event to his nearly 250,000 Instagram followers and his over 280K Twitter followers.
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Dime: You had an old Twitter account, but you got rid of it before settling on @TheRealJRSmith. Have you found that talking to people over Twitter and Instagram has allowed you to change people’s perception of you?
J.R. Smith: Yeah. It’s, without a doubt, a lot of people. So people get to see who I really am, as opposed to reading what other people are writing and stuff like that. It really gives me a chance to let them know even when you have giveaways and stuff like that and just really keep proactive with the fans.
Dime: The Bike Ride from last year really cracked us up. Did you think of that spur of the moment, or did you just think, “I’ll go on Twitter and send it out to my fans as a joke?”
Smith: It was kind of a spur of the moment thing. I was actually coming back from my mom’s house with my brother. And I sent the tweet out, not really thinking anyone would really respond. Before I knew it, it had like a thousand mentions: “Oh, I’m gonna meet you, I’m gonna meet you.” And I thought, “let’s do it then.”
Dime: You had a pretty big crew there, and it was the middle of the night too.
Smith: Yeah, plus we rolled down to the Garden and stuff. And they had a sneaker release for the new Jordans and we were right outside. So it was dope.
Dime: You got any good Jordan stories coming up on his 50th birthday? We know you never played against him, but have you ever gone against him in a scrimmage or anything?
Smith: Nah, I wish. Just to be in the same room with him; I’m in awe every time.
Dime: So you’re a guy growing up, was he someone–
Smith: Oh yeah. That was my favorite player. Every play in my backyard, fadeaways, thinking I was Jordan, trying to dunk. And now, fortunately, I get to re-enact them at the Garden.
He’s doing a pretty solid impersonation of the G.O.A.T this season, and hopefully he keeps delighting his fans both in New York, and elsewhere, with his entertaining social media presence. He’s a lot more engaging on Twitter and Instagram than most professional athletes, so make sure to give him a follow. Who knows, he might show up with his bike, ready to survey New York City again.