After death of his mother, Marcus Smart opens up about using basketball as a refuge

"I go out every day and play like it’s my last.”

Marcus Smart Boston Celtics
Marcus Smart answers questions during media day. –Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

For Celtics guard Marcus Smart, basketball is the eye of a storm.

“I look at basketball as a storm, but it’s the eye of the storm,” Smart said during media day Monday. “The calmest place of it is to be right in the middle — the eye of it — and that’s what basketball is for me. It’s my eye. When everything else around me is going on, the distractions and things like that, basketball keeps me calm. That’s probably why I go out and you see me dive on the floor or take a charge or lay my body this way and give it everything I have, because I know and understand any day could be my last day. If it was, would I be proud of what I’ve accomplished?”


Smart is no stranger to loss. One of his brothers died in 2004, and he’s still grieving following the recent death of his mother, Camellia, who lost her battle with myelodysplastic syndrome — a form of cancer caused by abnormalities in the blood-forming cells in bone marrow. Smart spent much of the offseason in Texas to spend time with his mother, telling reporters in June his family, not his contract, was his No. 1 focus. He called the last couple of months “real humbling.”

“It kind of brings you back to reality,” he said Monday. “I have a great supporting cast around me, a great community in Boston and in Dallas behind me, a great organization in the Celtics, friends and family, so right now is the easiest part for me, because I have a lot of people around me.”

Smart anticipates the hardest part of the coping process will be when “everybody has to go back to work.” For him, however, going back to work means re-joining a team that is on the cusp of what the players have dubbed a really special season.

“I don’t think it’s really ever easy to lose your loved one, especially your mother, but like I said, I have a great supporting cast,” he said.


Smart said he wasn’t expecting anybody other than coach Brad Stevens and a few other members of the coaching staff to attend the memorial services for his mother. When Al Horford, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, Semi Ojeleye, Daniel Theis, co-owner Wyc Grousbeck, and others came to support, he was moved by the large turnout.

“To see those guys show up to the service was actually a surprise to me,” Smart said. “It meant a lot to be me and my family. It just shows how much this organization, as a family, cares about one another.”

At one point this offseason, Smart’s status with the Celtics appeared to be in limbo. But the two parties agreed to a four-year, $52 million deal in July.

“There’s no bad feelings between me and the organization,” he said. “I knew, coming in, this was a business. Sometimes we overlook the business side because build a relationship personally with certain people, certain organizations, certain teams, but at the same time, it’s a business. They were just doing their business part just like I was. We came to an agreement, and I’m back.