Say it ain’t so Charles — farewell to a legend

“And still undefeated…”

We knew it was coming. Old Father Time always wins. But for a while there, he looked behind on points.

For months the whispers had been getting louder, but this afternoon it was finally confirmed. The BBL season will start on Friday, but Charles Smith won’t. He won’t even come off the bench.

And so ends one of the most decorated careers in British basketball history. By whatever metric you like, you’d be hard pressed to come up with a list of all-time BBL greats that doesn’t feature Charles Smith.

438 games, 7048 points, 905 assists, 639 steals, 2445 rebounds, 273 blocked shots — heck even in fouls and turnovers — his name is littered throughout the BBL all-time league records.

With 21 winners medals, only his now former team-mates Fab Flournoy and Darius Defoe have more.

Six MVPs — five in finals and one league — only Drew Sullivan betters that. 32 times first or second in all competitions, 21 times in a major final.

Niall and I never got our deal, but here’s my part of it anyway.

I always think it’s impossible to compare players of different generations — styles change, rules change, the game changes. But what doesn’t is that buzz. That thing that makes people come back after that first game their friend dragged them too. That thing that makes us all keep coming back.

It’s the guy who gets you out of your seat or keeps you slumped in it. The player you loved the most or totally hated, the guy who saved you or killed you (again).

If I could pick only ten players from BBL history that I really, really loved to watch, Charles Smith would be in the starting five. He was that guy.

I’m sure those on Tyneside could make a better fist of it than me, but I have two occasions that classically sum him up in my mind. Two moments that first leapt into my head as I considered his career.

The Cup Final against Plymouth in 2012. That first quarter was brutal. It got to the point you felt bad for the Lehmon Colbert. Somebody — anybody — please stop the fight.

A ‘performance for the ages’ my co-comms on the day Rob Paternostro called it. Yup. Sure was.

And then the Trophy Final a couple of years ago was like Ali’s rope-a-dope. He’d not done anything, Leicester had kept him pretty quiet and then with the trophy just about gone and time almost expired….

Bang, bang, bang. Swinging haymakers from the ropes Smith knocked them out with some stunning — and presumably soul-crushing — three-point shooting.

Maybe if you trawl through the 500-odd games he will have played across all competitions you could find some better performances, but as a summation of a career, you’d be hard pressed to find any more adpt.

On the big stage he could kill from start to finish, destroy your defence, crush you into the ground — even though he wasn’t actually able to see the basket.

Or he could sneak up from behind and break your heart. Ruthlessly.

But always grinning and always with a little dance at the end.

So farewell to you Chuck, Prince Charles, Charlie Buckets, CharlesJSmith10. Thanks for the memories.

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