It’s the end of an era in the BBL after ‘Prince’ Charles Smith confirmed he is calling time on his glittering career in the British game.
In a phenomenally successful 14 years, Smith established himself as a legend with Esh Group Eagles Newcastle across three different stints on Tyneside. Largely because of the numbers he put up, his game-changing abilities, incredible 21 winners medals, 11 runners-up places and also his swashbuckling style.
“First and foremost, I would like to thank God for blessing me with the ability to play basketball and the work ethic to turn my ability into a great career that has spanned 20 years and four continents,” said Smith.
“I want to thank my family for all their love and support throughout my career. With that being said, it is time for me to bow out gracefully, as I have decided to end my professional basketball career. I’m not leaving because I can’t do it anymore, I’m leaving because my mind is telling me it’s time, and I’m looking forward to starting the next chapter in my life.
“It has been an honour to meet so many great people and to see so many beautiful places that without basketball wouldn’t have been possible and I feel truly blessed to have had so many great experiences.”
He continued, “The one place that has felt like home from day one has to be the Newcastle Eagles, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Paul Blake, the rest of the Newcastle Eagles organisation and the fans for a fantastic 14 years.
“Over this time, we have grown together both on and off the court. It has been wonderful being part of building a great franchise and helping bring so much success to a club that truly deserves it. I would like to thank them for believing in me as a player, as a person and for treating me as part of the family from the start.
“Finally, I want to wish everyone at the Newcastle Eagles continued success for many seasons to come. Thank you for making so many of my dreams a reality!’
Meanwhile Eagles’ head coach Fab Flournoy paid his own tribute to a player he coached, and a team-mate he played alongside.
“Words are not enough to describe the levels, the depths and the impact that Charles Smith has made in the game,” said Flournoy.
“Quite simply Charles Smith is the greatest scorer that I have ever played with! He is one of the greats in British Basketball. The way Charles played on court made you wonder how his performance was possible, it was unbelievable. It was amazing to see – just legendary.
“I was very fortunate to be his coach and to have the honour to play with him. Charles is a once in a generation player. His achievements will speak for themselves in the years to come – the story of how ‘Prince Charles’ graced our city with unprecedented success and trophies!
“On a very personal note, I have to thank Charles for all he has done for me and the club. The success we have would not be possible without him. The end of the greatest era in the clubs history!
“There is a part of me that will not be the same, Charles has given me some of my greatest basketball memories and from the deepest part of me I truly thank him,” added the play-caller.
Finally Eagles’ Managing Director, Paul Blake who employed him over so many of those years and for the first time back in 1999-2000, also paid tribute.
He said, “It’s hard to know where to start, Charles has had such a significant impact on our trophy success over the years, I can’t name too many other sportsmen or women in any sport that have stepped up and taken over in the really big games to help the team win in the way Charles did on a regular basis.
“There are so many games to mention but if you were to ask for one in particular it would have to be the Cup Final in 2011-12 when Charles went for 37 in the first half, a flawless performance that is rare to see, but one that Charles repeated in different ways in so many finals over a decade.
“Charles will be a huge miss for the club, league and sport but his performances will always be there for fans to watch, he has left an incredible legacy which will be hard to follow.
“The club has only previously retired one shirt in its history, TJ Walker’s No.5. We will be retiring the Charles Smith No.10 in recognition of his achievements in what has been a golden era for the Eagles,” confirmed Blake.
All those at Esh Group Eagles Newcastle and across the BBL wish him good luck and fortune in what will hopefully be a long and happy retirement.