Sam Smith, the highly respected NBA columnist whose career has spanned more than quarter of a century, is being honored as the inaugural winner of the Phil Jasner Lifetime Achievement Award by the Professional Basketball Writers Association, the group announced yesterday.

Smith, who has covered the NBA since 1983 and is now the columnist for, will be honored tonight during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final between the Bulls and Miami Heat.

Jasner, a longtime Sixers beat writer for the Daily News, died in December. The Jasner Award is presented by the PBWA to a member of the organization for distinguished service to the craft throughout a career. Phil Jasner was the 2001 recipient of a lifetime achievement award.

"There isn't a more suitable recipient of this award than Sam," said Doug Smith, of the Toronto Star and president of the PBWA. "He has served his readers, the industry and our organization with distinction for decades and embodies all that is good about what we do."

Sam Smith, who served four terms from 1998 to 2005 as president of the PBWA, covered the Bulls and league for 28 years at the Chicago Tribune, has been with for three seasons and is the author of the best-selling "The Jordan Rules" and "Second Coming," another book about Michael Jordan. *