Kenny Smith Talks Inside the NBA, Shaq, Charles Barkley, More on B/R AMA

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 21, 2020

FILE - In this Feb. 4, 2010 file photo, basketball analysts Kenny Smith, left, and Charles Barkley are shown on the set at TNT studios in Atlanta. With eight years left on their deal to broadcast the NCAA Tournament, CBS and Turner are tacking on another eight. The extension announced Tuesday, April 12, 2016 goes all the way through 2032.(AP Photo/Erik S. Lesser, File)
Erik S. Lesser/Associated Press

The start of the NBA playoffs means thrilling action, star players chasing a championship and future Hall of Famers looking to cement their legacies.

It also means TNT's Inside the NBA is appointment viewing.

Kenny Smith joined Bleacher Report for an AMA on Friday to discuss the beloved show, working with Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal, playing against Michael Jordan, who is the better shooter between Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard, and plenty more.

The following is the full transcript from the AMA session.


@BayLegend: How has playing in the NBA helped you as an analyst?

I think it doesn't always, what I've tried to realize is that I'm going to take what I know as analyst and combine it with what I know as a player. I want to talk from an infantry POV - I call it the Bull Durham effect, like when they go to the mound - I always want to know the inside scoop


@manny_mamba: What steered you towards deciding to go into broadcasting after the NBA?

My wife at the time was in media and she said "look at what I'm doing" and write notes down and then she would go over them with me and said I was pretty good. I had written down all the right things. Michael Jackson, the player not the singer, we played together and became a talent coordinator at TNT and the rest is history.


@BayLegend: What has been your favorite moment on Inside the NBA?

It's my 20th year and it could happen tonight! Every night is something different… Chuck kissing a donkey, throwing Shaq at a Christmas tree. Because we're so authentic, you never know what's gonna come out. It's a conversation more than a show. We were a great basketball show at one time but now we're a good TV show


@Not_RudyGobert: How did you get your nickname?

In high school. A writer Bill Travers, came to a game, we were playing Christ the King and I had a great game and the next day, I used to run to the newspaper to see if my name was in it. He named me without me knowing and it stuck. I was like, who's the jet? Dean Smith wasn't big on nicknames so it didn't stick in college and then Mullins and Pooh Richardson knew I was the Jet and Kevin Harlin was the only announcer who knew my nickname and he would use it. Even Ernie was like, who's the Jet and I said that's my nickname! Now everyone calls me it.


@DekeGeke: What's your favorite Shaq moment?

Two things: I remember the first week he got there, he was great in the green room and then when he got on the show he wouldn't say the same things. So I went to him and said, ‘you don't need to be dominant, just be you.' 

Shaqitn' a Fool, that's the part we all wait on! I'm waiting every night to see what's going to happen.


@Not_JerryJones: In your opinion who is the most exciting player to watch right now?

Dame and Luka - those two guys right now. Traditionally: Curry with the way he plays, Giannis in the top 5, Harden is 4.


@fav: Who's the better shooter: Steph or Dame?

Yeahhhhh! Aye Steph killed me in like 2 seconds! I was just really thinking about it. In my mind when I thought it, I was like "the only guy shooting like that is Steph." But then it came out "I don't know if you can shoot like that, Steph. I haven't seen you in a long while." So right away he tweets "I love you Kenny, but you're trippin'." I believe the best shooter for consistency has been Steph, he's done it longer. Whatever Steph Curry eats to get that shot, they're feeding that to Dame down in the bubble.

@Steve_Perrault: Is the best moment of your year when you get to declare the dunk contest to be over? The legendary Vince Carter dunk contest in 2000, I think your performance was just as good tbh

I was so excited the first year that Turner told me to be in the Dunk Contest as an announcer. Because I had always studied it from before. There are about four people that I’ve stole their cadence from. I grew up in New York, so the first guy is a guy named Warner Wolf. He was a newscaster and he used to say “Let’s go to the videotape!” So that’s me running to the big board. That’s where I got that from. Rick Barry is the next one. When Michael was in the Dunk Contest I was still in college. And a lot of the dunks I had seen Michael do...the way he described it was like “look at Michael’s legs!” I still hear it. “Look at the floating motion! Look at the movement!” That’s the difference, he’s saying it like a story. Here’s the last part. I’m a Biggie Smalls fan. He tells a story even if you can’t see. So I like to call the Dunk Contest like I’m on a radio show. I imagine I’m on radio and no one can see what’s going on but me. And so then my  excitement is real, my cadence is real. It’s like I’m telling somebody on the phone “Yo! I’m telling you, he’s in the air, his legs are in the air, it’s over!!” With Vince Carter saying “It’s over” I don’t think he heard me because we did it at the same time. I don’t have catchphrases. It just comes out. I’m a $5 freestyle rapper with a $100 budget. I deserved Vince that night. Because Danny Ainge was the guy calling it with me and Vince does his first dunk and I gave him a 10. So Danny goes “Kenny, if that’s the 10 that’s the standard.” And I was like “yea.” So his next dunk really was a 10 but it wasn’t as good as the other one. So everyone else gave him a 10 and I  gave him a 9. So I’m going in the hotel elevator after the Dunk Contest. And the doors are closing, somebody puts their hand in the doors and they open back up and Vince walks in and he goes “I don’t know what floor you’re going to but I’m going to talk to you. I was trying to be the first player to get a perfect 50 and you blew it for me. We’re Tar Heels, how’d you do that to me!” And I said “Vince! If I had known that I would have just gave you the 10. Because Danny Ainge is the one who told me I can’t give a 10 again if it’s not as good as your first one!” I was the idiot that didn’t give him the 10 both times. So he should have had the only perfect score in the history of the Dunk Contest.


@asuputamadre: Kenny, how would Hakeem's Rockets fare against MJ's Bulls if you guys met in the Finals?

Oh we'd beat them. We'd beat them. Robert Horry says it and he played under Phil Jackson so he understands it. The two things that most people forget, during that first run when they won their first three titles, we were 5-1 against them in the regular season. We were dominating them. We were the only team during that run that can say that. Now it wasn't the playoffs, Michael's different in the playoffs. But there was no Dennis Rodman and there was no Horace Grant. Michael played 40 games the year he wore  No. 45. He was averaging 30 points a game in the playoffs. It wasn't because he wasn't good enough, it was because they weren't good enough. So that's why they lost to Orlando, they were too small. The team they lost to with Shaq, we swept that team. We didn't lose a game to them in the Finals. The real question would have been if Rodman or Grant was there. Then it would have been like, I don't know. But Michael is the GOAT. He is the greatest. But we've seen the GOAT on not the best team too.


@adavis68: Who is funnier: Shaq or Charles Barkley?

Shaq is funnier. I say Chuck is more like, shocking, you know. Shaq is funny, Chuck is more shocking. Chuck says your subconscious - what's in the back of your mind. When it gets to the front you filter it, Chuck doesn't have that filter.


@Logan_bam777: What did you think when you won your first championship?

I would say the culmination of all of the work you put in, all the hills you run. It's a moment you're about to die - all the work, your parents driving you, AAU, travel ball, it all starts flashing. It's emotional because you realize you've done something very few people accomplish. How hard you work, all the bus rides, your teammates of course. A time when you're in a loving moment and an open emotional moment. You'd do anything in that moment that anyone asks - that's the best time to ask a player for anything, those 24 hours after winning!


@oliverclothesoff: Can you describe the evolution of Inside the NBA from when you started to now? And how it became so influential?

Biggest difference is, we're on longer. I don't know if there's a difference because our thought process and content doesn't change. We're just on longer. If the game ended at 12:45, we'd have to be off at 1:00 am. Now they give us a half hour after the game. Then Charles came and they gave us an hour. Now every night, programming lets us go and our show cancels everything else. I don't think there's another show in the history of TV that does that.

We're the only ones that add everything that's current, we bring it to the show. We'll do a your mama joke with you, we're that person with you and we're that deep. We will talk about our fans' mamas!


@tensecondhooper: Favorite Jordan moment playing against him?

East conf. so we only played them 2 times a year. He does a thing in the game where he goes- to a lot of people "go ahead take that shot you got it I'm not gonna contest it.' So in your mind you're like, should I run the play or is he really baiting me? I never felt for that bait. He coulda said we used to play together I could let you have it… but he never did. I always said I'll get open on my own. I'm not gonna take the bait. The one thing most people don't know is every thought process of MJ, if you go back you can see Dean Smith saying the exact same quote. MJ adds the competitiveness of it. A lot of Michael's great inspiration comes from Dean Smith.


@mister_padre: What is your dream golf foursome?

Coach Smith, Bill Russell, Obama, Oprah! I would love to hear the female perspective on a lot of things. I'm a storyteller and I love to hear stories so those 4 would give the best stories.


@quitactnlikeukno: Which player would you compare yourself to today?

Early in my career, I would say if Westbrook is a 10, I'm a 5 version of him. Push it at you fast, dunks, pull up jump shots. From FT line to FT line, no one was faster. Now the game is so different. I only took three or four 3s per game in the playoffs. Leading guy in the playoffs from 3 % in the game is ME! That means I would have shot more cause I'm the best percentage-wise, I would play more like the current guards taking eight to nine 3s a game.


@mrmikethomas327: What is one thing that is keeping the Celtics from winning a championship?

Nothing. They have everything they need. Kemba, Tatum, arguably the best wing player in the game. They have everything they need.


@kthompson16: What's your favorite Dean Smith story?

My favorite one is not even concerning me. It's actually Makhtar N'Diaye. I'm saying this because of the social injustice that's going on now. Makhtar was in practice having a bad practice and Coach Guthridge, our assistant coach, was like "hey man, come on Mak!." And Mak wouldn't look at him. So Coach Guthridge throws him out of practice. After practice one of our other coaches goes in there and asks him what's going on, like are you homesick or what? Mak's parents lived in Africa so he thought he might be homesick. And Makhtar wasn't looking at him. So the coach goes "Makhtar, look at me when I'm talking to you." And he goes "well coach, in my culture, if I look at you - an adult, that's a sign of disrespect. And coach goes "oh" and he walks out. So for the next week Coach Guthridge is not in practice. And so Mak thought he might be recruiting or whatever it might be. Then Makhtar says he gets a call from his mom and it's like "there's a man at our house who says he's your assistant coach, and he's been here for like four days, and he's been learning about our culture." So Coach Smith sent him there without even telling Makhtar, he sent him to AFRICA - to learn his culture, so that he would never make that mistake again. THAT is what social justice is right there.


@KingKush24: Thoughts on the Lottery yesterday?

I don't understand why the Knicks get all that reaction. I guess the expectation of New York is to be No. 1 in everything like fashion and rap music etc. Everyone wants those things to happen,  and when they don't they laugh at New York. I think the draft is gonna be interesting. I think the No. 1 pick is probably gonna be the kid from Georgia. If you're booking for excitement you should probably go with Ball.


Jet AcademyWith the pandemic and social distancing, kids are being homeschooled around the country and world and in the summer time there was no basketball camps or anything So I created the first live streaming basketball academy in The Jet Academy. I called Kemba, Trae Young, Victor Oladipo, WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart, and Brittney Griner and we created the first virtual camp where kids come on live to ask questions, they can upload their videos. It works on any device anywhere. All you need is cell service or Wi-Fi. With going back to school month we have a section coming up on scholarships. Because a lot of kids think getting a scholarship is playing on a travel team, that's not accurate. A lot of people out there want to dunk so we talk about explosion and all of those things. The last thing we're doing this month is training with the trainers who train the great players. So the guys who train the James Hardens and Kevin Durants they come on and they're gonna show you all the drills. So go to JetAcademyCamp.com to get your game right. There's no excuse to not get your game right during a pandemic!