Ron Smith is a basketball hall of famer that played 20 seasons for the Golden State Aztecs in the NBA. He’s originally from San Jose, California and was raised by his two parents that were olympians back in the day. His dad, Joe Smith, ran track and played basketball in the 1972 Olympics in Germany, and Ron’s mother, Karina Thomas, participated in gymnastics at the same olympics as Joe. As a kid, Ron was put into every sport there is. By the time he was 13, he stuck to basketball and pursued that sport only.

During High School, Ron Smith was already 6’6 as a Freshman and had a 5 foot vertical leap. He averaged 20 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists, and 4 blocks a game throughout his 4 years on the varsity basketball team. Kentucky, Cal Berkeley, Arizona, North Carolina, and San Jose State University all wanted to recruit Ron Smith, and he made up his mind after his final high school game. Ron announced that he would be staying in San Jose to play for the San Jose State University basketball team.

Ron Smith started as a freshman at San Jose State University and was the first freshman to ever do so at the school. That season, San Jose State went from being unranked to being the number one seed at the NCAA tournament. Their average win margin was plus 20 a game, while Ron Smith was the leading scorer with 35 points a game. Ron Smith and the San Jose State Spartans beat every team they faced in the NCAA tournament to give the school their first ever NCAA trophy. Ron Smith was later awarded the Wooden trophy, which is meant for the best player of the year. After, he was offered a chance to enter the NBA draft but he declined the offer. He wanted to stay in San Jose State because he wanted to become the first player to coach his own team. The original coach, Chuck Davis, retired after they won the NCAA title so the school was looking for a coach. The NCAA wouldn’t let Ron coach the team and play at the same time, but Ron came up with a petition and had 20,000 people sign it. The NCAA later gave Ron permission to be the coach after Ron submitted the petition. His teammates started calling him the Don which meant leader in Spanish and it stuck. Ron “The Don” Smith coached his team to another undefeated title that season while also averaging 40 points and 15 rebounds a game. The Don eventually received another Wooden award and accepted the offer after to eneter the NBA Draft.

The Golden State Aztecs selected the Don with the first overall pick in the 1994 NBA draft. The team traded the Cleveland Hobos all their draft picks for just the number one pick. Ron’s teammates still called him the Don even though he was rookie on a team full of veterans. He led the team in every stat category that year and became the first rookie to win the MVP and Rookie of the Year award in the same season. The Golden State Aztecs swept the Chicago Toros in the Finals that season and had a huge parade in San Jose where it all started for the Don. The Don ended up playing just six more seasons in the NBA and won a title in every year he played. He gave no reason as to why he cut his career short but he was still elected into the basketball Hall of Fame. Every time his teammates talk about him, they only refer to him as the Don still.

Elliott Rivera