At the age of 16, J.R. Smith‘s mom encouraged him to get his first tattoo – an image of Vince Carter dunking. Trading Vince’s number for his own as a symbol of his hoop dreams, it seems like J.R. might have solidified his path to basketball success. VICE Sports caught up with the Cleveland Cavalier as part of their Ride Along series, linking up with J.R. as they cruised through the palm tree-trimmed streets of Beverly Hills.
The NBA’s 2011 lockout brought J.R. to China for a short stint with the Zhejiang Golden Bulls before he headed back Stateside to play for the Knicks and the Cavaliers. “Every person that plays in the NBA should experience playing in New York at least once in their career,” says J.R., who was crushed to leave the city, team and best friend Carmelo Anthony behind when he was first traded to Cleveland. The NBA star shares stories of his childhood and experience in the league (LeBron and Melo are the among the best players in the NBA, according to Smith) as he gets ready for the Eastern Conference Finals. Catch the interview in the video above.