HOUSTON — Jabari Smith Jr. is two days away from the start of his NBA career. Smith will be one of 14 players suiting up for the Houston Rockets to take part in the 2022 NBA Summer League competition in Las Vegas.
Smith will have an opportunity to prove why he should have been the first prospect selected during the 2022 NBA Draft in June. Thursday night, Houston's first match of the summer tournament will be against Paolo Banchero and the Orlando Magic. The Rockets drafted Smith Jr. with the No. 3 overall pick, while Banchero was taken first overall by the Magic.
His summer league play is a vital step ahead of his rookie campaign with the Rockets. But Smith's most significant match before the start of the NBA season will take place at an undisclosed location in a one-on-one battle against his father — Jabari Smith Sr.
"It's going to happen, and I'm going to win," Smith Sr. said during the Rockets' introductory press conference for the draft class of 2022. "I am confident that I can beat him by one point. I have to foul him a lot. And I have to make it a dirty game. But I am going to win."
Smith Sr., who played four years in the NBA, says he has set a one-on-one match against his son for August 1. He has lost 40 pounds and has constructed a game-plan that will give him an advantage over the reigning SEC Freshman of the Year winner.
Smith Jr. began beating his dad in one-on-one battles during his prominent high school career, which resulted in him receiving McDonald's All-American and Mr. Georgia Basketball honors as a senior in 2021.
But Smith Sr. described watching his son making the NBA as emotional and gratifying. He believes his son has already surpassed his basketball legacy based on their respective draft selections.
"He has his own type of mental drive," Smith Sr. said. "He understands that I played. But he wants to make his own name. He is at that point where he is ready to branch off from his dad and let me be a dad — other than the guy who is always pushing him."
Smith Sr. entered the league as a second-round pick (No. 45 overall) by the Sacramento Kings in 2000. He played for the Kings, Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets before continuing his pro-basketball career playing for several different leagues.
The best game of his NBA career came in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in January of 2005. Smith Sr. scored a career-high 19 points on 53.8 percent from the field, six rebounds, six assists and a pair of steals.
When the Rockets begin the 2022-23 campaign in October, Smith Sr. and Smith Jr. will join a long list of the NBA's father-son duos. The renowned list of father-son duos are Mychal and Klay Thompson, Del and Stephen Curry, and Joe and Kobe Bryant.
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