Like the rest of his teammates, Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith was overcome with emotion after his team’s historic championship win. But for Smith, who has been through a series of challenges that could have ended his career, Sunday night’s win was even bigger triumph for the 12-year NBA veteran.

“My parents, my family, that’s the biggest inspiration in my life. I’ve been in a lot of dark spots in my life, and if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be able to get out of it,” a teary Smith told reporters. “They fought with me. They yelled at me, they screamed at me, they loved me, they hugged me, they cried with me, and they always stuck by my side no matter right or wrong.”

And he’s right. Back in 2007, Smith’s life and career almost came to an end when he got into a car accident in New Jersey. Smith and a friend, Andre Bell, were ejected from the vehicle and, sadly, Bell died. In June 2007, Smith plead guilty to reckless driving and was sentenced to 90 days in jail. As a result of his crime, Smith was also suspended for seven games for the 2009–2010 NBA season. The incident, as well as several others, could have derailed his career, but Smith said his family kept him on track. Hear his words about his father, firsthand.

“To hear people talk bad about me, it hurts me because I know it hurts him, and that’s not who I am. And I know he raised me better, and I know I want to do better. Just everything I do is for my parents and my family. I mean, I don’t really — the cars are nice, the houses are nice, but none of this matters without them,” Smith said through his tears. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here. I don’t know where I would be, honestly. If it wasn’t for them, if it wasn’t for the structure and the backbone that I have, I wouldn’t be able to mess up and keep coming back and being able to sit in front of you as a world champion.”

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The Cavaliers overcame a 3-1 deficient in the series to pull off a historic win and bring home the first championship for the city of Cleveland since 1964.