Marcus Smart Talks Art And What He Learned From Playing In The NBA Finals

Marcus Smart is a paradox. He swiftly says he doesn’t own a connection to art. Yet immediately after, he deems basketball his artistic outlet, shares that he participated in choir and theater arts in high school, jovially bugs his agent to land him some movie cameos, and takes pride in the fact he dyed his hair Boston Celtics green for last year’s playoff run.

“Nobody saw it coming,” Smart says of his green locks.

Whether it’s the green hair, his passing panache, or his subtle pursuits as a rapper, Smart considers creativity a prominent component of his ethos. It’s part of why he elected to partner with Tres Generaciones Tequila and its “Get Up Tres” campaign, which aims to motivate artists, creators and fans as they progress through their respective journeys.

On behalf of Tres Gen, Dime caught up with Smart last week to discuss his relationship to art, how his upbringing shaped his basketball persona and a host of other topics.

What do you have going on with Tres Gen and why are you excited about it?

I was partnered with Tres Gen and we’re doing this platform, “Get Up Tres.” It’s kind of crazy because, as I was being introduced to the whole Tres Gen movement and the “Get Up Tres” platform, the perseverance, the grit, and the determination that goes into making the best of the best, the bottle, the way that you can tell the time that was taken to make it, it’s just funny because that’s everything that embodies me. Just the way I play, from the grit, my determination, my perseverance through my life, on and off the court. It’s ridiculously crazy, and I just feel it connected right away. And I wanted to be able to be a part of something that reminds me of myself.

I read that perseverance, creativity, and purpose are the pillars of your partnership. How are those things so integral to your identity?

Well, so, for me, and it’s crazy, like with the creativity, my hair is one of those things to be able to, just the way I came out last year in the playoffs and just dyed my hair green, also a Celtics color, it was like, nobody saw it coming. Nobody thought about it who played or plays for Boston to think about actually dyeing their hair. So, that creativity and the perseverance part was really one of the things that had drawn me to it. Because throughout my life, like I said, I’ve always had to persevere and overcome certain obstacles, such as my mom passing away, my brother’s passing away, injuries within basketball, losing in the Finals, all type of things. So, it was just a unique way for me to express myself the same way that it was a unique way for Tres Gen to express themselves as well.

Part of this movement is to help inspire artists, creators and all people, why is that inspiration important to you?

Because for me, growing up, when I was a little kid, being able to see people that you either looked up to, you wanted to look up to or that just intrigued you, I never really had that as much for me. Everybody’s going to the basketball camps, I wasn’t really going to these top basketball camps until I got into about my senior high school. And I felt I wanted to be that voice. I wanted to be somebody that can change the way a young kid looks at an artist, looks at a performer, looks at an athlete or looks at somebody who they idolize, and understand that we’re just like them. We’re human, we go through the same things that they go through. And we see them. We want to be able to connect with them in a way that they connect with us and what better way than actually getting out there, putting your face to something, and allowing them to hear and see you.

The art component is something I latch on to. Do you have a relationship or a background with with art? Is there a way that you try to connect with with art?

I actually don’t, besides basketball being the art of mine. And it’s funny. I’m not, I wouldn’t say as much as like art, but yes, at the same time, I took choir. I took theater arts when I was in high school, I love to act. I’ve been trying to tell my agent get me into some movies, things like that. I rap a little bit. So, it’s just a little bit of everything artistic-wise, the uniqueness of it, the simplicity of my art that I do. And some things that people probably wouldn’t even think I would, such as choir and things like that.

Yeah, I certainly had no idea, so that’s a cool tidbit. Thank you for the insight there. You mentioned perseverance in your life, one of which was going through that Finals loss last year. Both collectively as a team and individually, what did you learn from that experience that you’ve tried to apply this year?

I think for me individually, I learned what it took in the sense of, growing up, I’ve won high school championships, I won an AAU championship, but we’re talking about the world championship at the highest level of highest athletes, of players in the sports world. This is where every person in their field of the athlete world dreams of, is being here, in this championship. We played a team that knew exactly what it took, they’ve been there, and they understood it. For us, we understood it. But it’s a difference when you play somebody who’s actually been through it multiple times. And they taught us a good lesson that it can happen. But you just got to stay focused. You got to play it all the way out. We didn’t finish it. We had two games left. And we left two games on the table.

When you say they really understood it, what does that mean? Is that a sense of valuing every possession or what does that look like?

Every possession, they valued. They understood that when things didn’t go their way, that it was still OK. You can’t get too high or too low. They didn’t let the moment, I guess in a sense, seize them. They seized the moment and that’s why they’re champions. And that’s why they have what they have, the rings and the legacy that they got going.

What did you learn individually on the court, beyond some of the intangibles?

Just learned more and more about my teammates. Where they like the ball at, where they like to score at, their favorite positions on the court, and how to get them the ball and get them easier shots. That’s what that Finals run really taught me individually and I try to bring it to this year’s team, and I have. I’m leading the team in my career[-high] in assists, so I’m doing a good job there. So, just got to continue to work.

Yeah, I wanted to ask about your passing too. You obviously have a prominent ball-handling role and there’s some flair to your passing. Where does that come from? Was there anyone you watched growing up or study now that influences you?

I was always, as a kid, like a little daredevil. Like, I love tumbling. So like, I’m doing flips all kinds of flips. I’ve flipped off houses, I’ve flipped off swings, I’ve flipped off cars, I’ve flipped off other people’s back. I’ve flipped off almost anything. For me, when I get on the court, I like to try stuff. I like to try things. I love to try things that are unconventional at times. Obviously, we all watched Magic [Johnson] growing up. We’ve seen the way he passed the ball and the flair he had with him. You just take all that and bring it into your game and then make it your own. That’s kind of what I did.

With that risk-taking, you play with almost a reckless abandon, where you’re always willing to put your body on the line. You’re known for a lot of different hustle plays. Is there a certain type of hustle play that’s your favorite?

Yeah, a loose ball. So, if it’s like me and one other person for just a loose ball that we need, where I can go full speed and literally just lay out for it, if I can get it, that’s just one of the things that just gets me going, gets my team going. I think it’s fun. Some people might look at it as crazy, but I think it’s fun.

Do you have a favorite loose ball you’ve tracked down in your career?

Yeah, definitely. I’ll never forget. It was my first game, actually, first game, think it was a preseason game my first year against the [Brooklyn] Nets. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were just traded to the Nets and they came back and played. I remember it was a loose ball between me, Garnett, Jared Sullinger and, oh, I forgot his name. Ah! I forgot his name. And I was the first one to the ground. I beat KG to the ground. I made a pass to Jeff Green, he dunks it on the fast break. Nets call a timeout. [Garnett] gets up, taps me on my chest, and he goes, that’s the type of [expletive] I like to see, young fella.

That’s awesome, since you were kind of the torchbearer from KG as the heart and soul of the Celtics, so that’s a cool moment to hear. Defensively, one of the things that stands out to me is your ability to play bigger than your stature. Where does that stem from?

I think that originated from being the youngest. I’m the youngest of all boys. So, when you got all boys who play sports and everybody’s a competitor, competitive, you gotta really hold your own. I was always the last to get everything growing up. I didn’t have a bedroom. I slept on the couch. So, it was like, I’m the last in the bathroom. Everything’s last. So, for me, I always had to fight or it wouldn’t end well for me. So, I just, as I grew up, that confidence just stayed with me. And I think that’s what I can contribute the way that I play. Because I’ve always played against older guys, my brothers were always older. I’d play with them and their friends.

Oh, yeah, I can imagine how that shaped you. Is there a team you really enjoy preparing for defensively?

Probably the Bucks, just that team in general. That’s a really good team with some really good players. We have a lot of respect for those guys and what they bring to the table, and it’s always a bloodbath with those guy. It’s always fun playing them, so I’d probably say the Bucks.

Sitting in the No. 2 seed out East right now, what’s what’s worked so well for you all to allow for a fairly seamless transition, at least from the outside, from one head coach to the next?

Just our ability to lean on one another. We know things aren’t gonna be perfect. We know we’ve been in a drought. But we can bounce back quicker than anybody in the league. So, for us understanding that we are a good team, we are one of the top teams and just continue to play like that.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.