Smith had finished his four-year career as the all-time leading scorer in Michigan State history, with 2,263 points. He ranks fourth on the school's all-time assists list (with 453) and fifth in rebounds (with 704). For his college career Smith averaged 18.5 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists per contest in 122 games. He was named a First Team All-American as both a junior and a senior. Smith led the Spartans to a Big Ten Championship and Sweet Sixteen appearance in 1990 and hit a game-winning, last-second three-pointer to beat Wisconsin–Green Bay in the first round of the 1991 NCAA Tournament. He was inducted into Michigan State's Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001.
Smith enjoyed some of the most productive seasons of his career while wearing an Atlanta Hawks uniform.
Smith was selected fifth overall in the 1991 NBA Draft by the Miami Heat for whom he played for three seasons before being traded two games into the 1994–95 season to the Atlanta Hawks. He would lead the Hawks in scoring for four consecutive seasons, and was also selected for the 1998 NBA All-Star Game. He spent five seasons with the Hawks before being traded to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for Jim Jackson and Isaiah Rider.
He was traded to the Spurs for Derek Anderson in the off-season of 2001. He won an NBA title with the Spurs before signing as a free agent with the New Orleans Hornets in 2003 where he played for one season. He began the 2004–05 season with the newly formed Charlotte Bobcats, where he was named team co-captain and scored the franchise's first 3-point field goal, but he was later re-acquired by the Heat at the February 24, 2005 trade deadline in exchange for Malik Allen. He announced his retirement at the end of that season.
He holds career averages of 14.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game while shooting 35.8 percent from behind the three-point line. He holds the Hawks' single-game record for three-pointers with 9.
Smith is well known for his charitable pursuits, including a USD 2.5 million gift in 1997 to his alma mater, Michigan State University, where he was a star guard under coach Jud Heathcote. Smith's donation helped to fund the Clara Bell Smith Student Athlete Academic Center, which is named for his mother. This was the largest single donation by a professional athlete to his former school in history.
Smith insisted that part of his $2.5 million donation be dedicated to create the Steve Smith Scholarship for Academic Achievement. In 2001, Smith donated another $600,000 to fully endow the scholarship, which provides a four-year academic scholarship to one student per year from Smith's former high school.