I remember when Charles Smith broke into the NBA. His rookie season (1988-89) is probably when I first starting really following the NBA. Smith had the poor luck of starting his career in Los Angeles with the Clippers. Here in 2010 the Clippers are a total joke. Things were no different in the late 1980s. The franchise had already made its mark as an annual loser.
Smith was the third overall pick in the 1988 NBA Draft out of the University of Pittsburgh. He was drafted behind Danny Manning and Rik Smits (two guys who deserve posts on this site). Charles was actually drafted by the 76ers but was swapped on draft night for Hersey Hawkins. The Clippers thought they had their frontcourt of the future in Manning and Smith.
Charles averaged 16 points and 6 boards a game as a rookie and was named to the All-Rookie first team. It would be his only career award in the NBA. Smith would go on to put up at least 20 points a game in the next two seasons. However, instead of being seen as a young, rising star, Smith was seen simply as a good player on a bad team.
After one more season with the Clips, the organization did him a huge favor: They traded him to the Knicks in a deal for Mark Jackson. Smith stepped in at forward for the Knicks in the mid-1990s and played on some very good teams. Smith saw his playing time and scoring decrease, but at least he played on some playoff teams.
In the 1993 playoffs, the Knicks were up against Jordan’s Bulls. New York took a 2-0 lead in the series only to see the Bulls battle back to tie the series at two wins apiece. The pivotal game five took place at Madison Square Garden. With 25 seconds remaining the Knicks trailed by one point and Charles Smith had the defining moment of his career:
Truly a tough break. Smith saw his playing time decrease even further and was traded to the Spurs for a pile of crap in February of 1996. Smith then played a couple of years in San Antonio before retiring at the age of 31. He retired with a career scoring average of 14.4 points per game. Nice.
Since retiring, Smith has been active on the business side of the NBA and created a youth center for teens in his hometown of Bridgeport, CT.