Known for his rugged defense and never-ending hustle, Boston Celtics combo guard Marcus Smart says that basketball is indeed more than just a game for him. In a heartfelt article written by The Athletic’s Jay King, Smart discusses how important basketball is to him and how it changed his family’s life.

“To be honest, basketball is my eye,” Smart said, “but the first day today was a little emotional for me just for the simple fact that every year I started training camp she was there.”

Smart lost his mother due to cancer this summer, a tragic setback for the point guard’s young career. He recently signed a four-year, $52 million deal with the Celtics, but going into the season without his mother will definitely tough for the 24-year old.

But life must go on, and so does his basketball career. After all, basketball carried a lot of his burdens in the past and has also gifted him with plenty of blessings. He was still a young kid back then when he dreamt of playing in the NBA and give his family the good life that they truly deserve.

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“He decided that when he grew up, he would make enough money so that his parents would never need to worry about it again. He would make it to the NBA and buy them a house and then they would be able to rest the way they deserved.”

Until now, Smart finds peace in his heart whenever he steps onto the hardwood.

“He delivered moving remarks on Monday about how the game serves as the eye of his storm, the center that remains calm while all is chaos outside.”

Even if Smart would never see his mother in the stands again, he knows that her support and influence will forever guide him, not just on his basketball, but on his life as well.