In the last year, we've wondered whether Charles Barkley's time on Inside the NBA may be winding down. Barkley himself has spoken of different challenges and opportunities and the time may be approaching when it's time for Chuck to try something new. Now comes a report that Barkley's longtime partner - Kenny "The Jet" Smith, may leave Inside the NBA. Smith has publicly thrown his hat into the ring for the Sacramento Kings GM job as well as saying he's seriously looking at jobs on the sideline and in the front office.
Smith admitted he was "talking" to the Kings and told Sam Amick of USA Today he's seriously looking at new opportunities:
Smith wasn't afraid to campaign for his own cause, admitting that he's looking for his next challenge after becoming one of the most prominent and entertaining voices in the basketball world.
"I've been winning my whole life," Smith said. "I've been blessed to be a winner. So whatever happens, whatever I do, I'm going to win an Emmy next year or I'm going to try to win an NBA championship or I'm going to try to win in cards. I'm a winner. I'm a winner. I've been blessed in my whole life, so I think I have a clear vision."
Smith was selected sixth overall by the Kings in the 1987 draft out of North Carolina, then played his first two-plus seasons there before he was traded to the Atlanta Hawks. He won two championships with the Houston Rockets (1994, 1995), and averaged 12.8 points and 5.5 assists per game in his 10-year career.
Asked if he has been on the lookout for front office opportunities, Smith said, "Honestly, I've been looking at both — coaching, and a lot of things have been coming these last couple of years, and this time I've been taking it serious. My kids are at an age where I feel comfortable. And the other years, the kids were just too young. I didn't want to be in it. But I just started taking it serious."
Kenny Smith is the forgotten man on Inside the NBA. He's not the celebrity figure that is relatively new addition Shaquille O'Neal. He's not Ernie Johnson, who is widely regarded as the best studio host in sports. He's not his longtime partner Charles Barkley, who is a lock for any "Best Studio Analyst" award but may also be the most entertaining personality in all of sports television. Kenny Smith is the glue guy though, and every great team needs a glue guy to succeed. Smith has developed that chemistry with EJ and Barkley over a decade to the point where removing any of the three would dramatically affect the overall product. More than anything, it's the overall chemistry of the show that has made it into an institutional success. Inside the NBA is that rare product where the individual parts are all fantastic, but the sum is even greater still.
Smith has worked at Turner Sports since 1998, which is almost impossible to believe. It's hard to imagine Inside the NBA without him, but there's precedence with analysts moving into front office roles as fellow TNT colleagues Steve Kerr and Danny Ainge have. Regardless of whether or not Smith takes the Kings job, it appears he's very intent on entering the coaching or front office ranks. If so, it could mean the award winning run of Inside the NBA as we know it may be coming to an end sooner rather than later.
Shaq is getting better as an analyst and 'Shaqtin' a Fool' is a staple. However, he should tone down the physical bafoonery a tad bit. Kenny's departure would be a blow but not insurmountable. Steve 'Smitty' Smith would be my replacement choice.
I think the run of Inside the NBA can continue. TNT is loaded with talent that can come in and take over.