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New children’s book from J.R. and Chris Smith focuses on brotherhood

They hope ‘HoopSmiths’ will lead to more quality family time

They call J.R. Smith “Swish” for a reason. But it was a missed shot, what would have been a game-winner in a youth championship game, that is the story in a new children’s book from Smith and his brother Chris.

Chris Smith, who plays professionally in Israel after a brief stint with Smith on the New York Knicks, got the idea for the book while thinking about the brothers’ younger days. They grew up in central New Jersey, coached by their father, Earl. In one championship game, Chris Smith was wide-open as the clock ticked down.

“I was in the corner,” said Chris Smith, 30, who is two years younger than Smith. “He wanted the shot, and him being the older brother, he’s going to take the shot. Him being him, he’s taking every shot. You know that. There’s no difference from then to now.”

Their father, Earl Smith, agrees: “J.R. didn’t want to pass it to nobody.”

Smith missed. The story of what came next is told in HoopSmiths: J.R. and Chris Learn Teamwork, written by Chris Smith and Smith and illustrated by Kris Carter.

“The main messages I want people to get is that siblings stick together, and then teamwork,” Chris Smith said. “You learn teamwork through values and literally how to interact with people. If I take a shot or he takes a shot, it shouldn’t matter because we’re family. We’re together, and as long as the team wins, we all win.”

The book hews closely to the brothers’ real life. Smith wears a Michael Jordan jersey in the book and Chris Smith wears Penny Hardaway’s, like they did as kids. The illustrations are based on childhood photographs.

Smith hopes that parents will take time to read the book with their children. “People think, I don’t have time, I don’t have time,” he said. “You got time to sit on your phone. People put an iPad in front of their kids to stop them from crying, and then they’re technology junkies because they don’t want to do nothing. Don’t get mad at the kids now because they don’t want to go outside and play. You started the pattern.”

The book is dedicated to their father, known as Big Earl. It was published by Mascot Books and New Generation Management, a marketing company founded by Chris Smith’s agent, Daniel Hazan. Proceeds will benefit the J.R. Smith Family Assist Foundation.

“We had a great childhood,” Chris Smith said. “My mom and dad, they taught us a lot of values and how to actually become men. We grew up with normal lives with two parents that actually cared. Dad gave us the tools to life. To see his name and his picture in this book, it’s like a dream.

“When I first held the finished book in my hands, I didn’t see my name or J.R.’s. I just see Big Earl.”

Jesse Washington is a journalist and documentary filmmaker. He still gets buckets.