J.R. Smith’s Ink: “I Got A Hell Of A Story Going On”

With the Denver Nuggets heading into Game 2 this evening in OKC – and looking to exact revenge from the Thunder’s 107-103 game one victory – they’re going to need positive minutes from the bench to be successful. Which is why the play of guard J.R. Smith is even that much more needed. In Game 1, Smith logged a modest 17 minutes of action – down from his 25-a-game regular season average – scoring nine points in that time.

You never really know what you’re going to get from J.R. on a nightly basis. It’s why his minutes are as streaky as some of his three-point heaves. But when he’s feeling it, he can collect buckets as fast as anyone in the League. And he can do a defense dirty from above the rim to far beyond the arc. The offensive side of the ball is where Smith is most comfortable, and off the court, that comfort circle extends to something else he’s known for: the tattoo chair.

Since the age of 15, if something has piqued his interest – ranging from Lil Wayne to Michael Phelps – it’s been safe to assume that J.R. Smith has, and will, ink it on his body. In a league where tattoos have become far more than commonplace, the Denver Nuggets have been exceeding the industry standards in the department for years. And for their seventh-year shooting guard, getting his life’s trials and triumphs forever marked onto his body has become as second nature as shooting the rock.

“People always say tattoos tell a story,” says Smith. “So, I mean, I think I got a hell of a story going on.”

Ten years after getting his first tattoo, the now 25-year-old Smith has covered more of his body in ink than there is real estate still available to be used; many of which being spur of the moment decisions. Just last August, the same day that Chris “Birdman” Andersen showed up at the Nuggets’ facility with his now infamous “Free Bird” neck tat, Smith went down to the same Denver ink shop (Tribe Tattoo) to get his own colorful “Swish” neck work done.

“My tattoos are really pretty much off the fly,” says Smith. “I mean, whenever I want to get something, I never really know what I’m gonna get until I get to the tattoo shop. So, when I get there, I just start picking stuff and then just get it.”

J.R.’s tattoo game has definitely been on full blast lately, with more to come on his lower torso and legs next, he says. But for Smith, the NBA’s runner-up for the Sixth Man of the Year in 2009, it’s just another day in the life.

“Mama’s Boy”
The mother piece was the most important, because I’m definitely a mama’s boy and I’m not afraid to let everybody know that. The Jesus one was because without him I wouldn’t be here, and God is just a very significant part of my life – and I think it should be in everybody’s. ‘My Time To Shine’ is just expressing myself because I feel as though I’ve waited long enough to express the way I feel on the basketball court. So I just felt as though it’s my time.

Those are my grandparents on my father’s side. My grandfather and my grandmother. They played such a significant part in my life when I was growing up, I had to get it.

“Angels” & “Just Klownin”
I actually got the angel wings when I was like 19; it was my grandparent’s names. So I got it on my back since they’re my guardian angels. ‘Just Klownin’ is just me being me. Got the football guy up there, from football to basketball, to my brothers and sisters, to my friends watching my back, it just plays a significant part of my life because all of the people that I have surrounded by me.

“Young Money”
My favorite music group is Young Money. Me and Lil Wayne are kind of like brothers in a sense. I met him when I was a rookie coming to New Orleans (in 2004) and that’s pretty much the only thing I listen to.

Actually I got it when I was watching Michael Phelps win all those gold medals (2008 Olympics in Beijing) and it made me extremely proud to see an American doing well and how much it meant to him as a person to represent his country. And I always wanted to play in the Olympics and be a part of something like that. So it was just something for me that definitely I had to get.

“In Love With My Money”
I’ve been in a lot of situations where some people feel as though love is more important. I think relationships are great, but unfortunately for me, it hasn’t really worked out yet. So I just put ‘In Love With My Money’ because that’s what keeps me pushing. That’s what keeps my family stable. I mean, I didn’t go to college because of the money, so I had to put it on there.

Demi, that’s my daughter.

“Through the Fire”
I was 15 with my first tattoo; it was a picture of me dunking. It was really Vince Carter, but I just put my name and number on the back.

“King of New Jersey”
My left arm says the King of New Jersey; it’s a map of New Jersey.

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