Philanthropist Smith retires from league

Updated: September 30, 2005, 8:30 PM ET
Associated Press

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- After a storied career at Michigan State and 14 seasons with six NBA teams, Steve Smith retired Friday.

Smith returned to his alma mater to announce his retirement as a player at age 36.

"My mother would be very proud," Smith said of his inspiration, the late Clara Bell Smith. "She'd say, 'You can close this chapter now. But you still have work to do.'"

Smith scored 13,430 points in the NBA, a 14.3 average. The No. 5 overall pick in the 1991 draft began his career with the Miami Heat, became an NBA All-Star in 1998 with the Atlanta Hawks and earned a championship ring in 2003 with the San Antonio Spurs. He also played for the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Hornets and Charlotte Bobcats.

Smith won an Olympic gold medal with Team USA in Sydney in 2000 and was part of the USA Basketball squads that went undefeated in the 1994 World Championships in Toronto and the 1999 Tournament of the Americas in San Juan.

Smith was a two-time All-America at Michigan State and is the school's No. 2 career scorer with 2,263 points. He was the Big Ten's MVP as a junior in 1990 after leading the Spartans to a league title and a then-school record 28 wins.

"I still think I can play, but it's time for me to do something else," Smith said. "The whole ride has been tremendous. When I'd lie in bed at 6 or 7 and dream of playing in the NBA, that dream came true."

Smith's off-court contributions have been recognized with the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 1998 and the NBA Sportsmanship Award in 2002.

His $2.5 million gift helped fund the $7.5 million Clara Bell Smith Student-Athlete Academic Center, where he announced his retirement. His scholarship program has sent Detroit Pershing High graduates to Michigan State.

Smith's former head coach at Michigan State, Jud Heathcote, traveled from Spokane, Wash., to join Smith at Friday's tribute. Current Spartans coach Tom Izzo, who made Smith his first recruit, was the master of ceremonies.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press