A familiar figure appeared in the midst of the Lakers’ on-court celebration after they clinched their 17th NBA championship on Sunday night.
Lakers fans might not have recognized the face, since they did not see much of it during the Lakers’ 2020 postseason run.
But the heavily tattooed torso was unmistakable to anyone who remembers the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers championship team.
Welcome back, shirtless J.R. Smith.
Smith didn’t have much use for shirts during the aftermath of the Cavaliers’ NBA Finals victory over the Golden State Warriors four years ago. President Obama even made it a point to tell coach Tyronn Lue to make sure Smith had his upper body covered when the team visited the White House.
A 16-year NBA veteran, Smith hadn’t played since Nov. 11, 2018, until the Lakers signed him this summer as a replacement for Avery Bradley, who opted not to play in the Orlando bubble. Smith scored 11 points in 21-plus minutes in Game 2 of the Lakers’ first-round series against Portland.
Those ended up being 2020 postseason highs in minutes and points for Smith, appeared in just 10 of the team’s 21 playoff games and none since Game 3 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat.
But immediately after the final seconds ticked away in the Lakers’ 106-93 title-clinching win over the Heat, LeBron James threw his arms around the necks of several teammates at once.
One of them was his former Cavaliers teammate Smith, who was, naturally, already shirtless.
And that, kids, is how you celebrate an NBA championship — particularly if you’re built like Smith and covered with awesome tattoos. We can only hope the Lakers eventually are able to have a parade or some sort of public celebration so we can see Shirtless J.R. live and in person.