Still, Smart is human. And the stress and strain, at times, has been noticeable.
After the Cowboys’ overtime loss to Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament, Smart allowed a glimpse of his edgy side, free-flowing a bit as reporters surrounded him in the locker room. One writer pressed him on if the NCAA Tournament would define his legacy.
“I think my legacy is already defined,” he said. “I’m a hard worker. Player. Teammate. I like to make my teammates better. I’m kind, but like Kevin Durant said, ‘Don’t let the kindness fool you. Don’t take it for weakness.’
“Between those lines I talk trash. I’m physical. I don’t respect you. But if you fall down, I’ll help you up. I’ll shake your hand. If you’re hurt, I’ll check on you and make sure you’re all right.
“Off the court, I’m one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet. But on the court, I’m a pest. I know a lot of teams know and understand that.”
Within all that lies Smart’s utter disdain for losing. It’s all but unacceptable to him, making him the anti-AAU product of today’s summer programs.
And that’s why this weekend means so much, not in terms of legacy, but satisfaction.
Out in San Diego, maybe he can just be Marcus Smart again. There won’t be any student sections targeting No. 33. Maybe the laid-back locals will appreciate and enjoy just having him there.
And maybe Smart can finally appreciate coming back.
“It’s coming to an end here shortly,” said Phil Forte, Smart’s closest confidant. “I think he’s trying to enjoy it all and soak it all in. He’s not going to know when his last game is, so he’s going to go out there and have fun and enjoy being a college basketball player for a little while longer.”