Kenny Smith’s Sabrina Ionescu comments spoiled an otherwise great 3-point contest moment


The simple problem with Kenny Smith’s comments on TNT during the best moment of All-Star Saturday was they didn’t make any sense.

What Smith said as the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry edged out the New York Liberty’s Sabrina Ionescu in a made-for-great-TV 3-point contest was distracting because of its lack of logic and timing. We watched a fun sports Picasso, and Smith could strangely only talk about the canvas not being exactly right in his eyes.

Shooting from the farther NBA 3-point line, Curry, considered by most the greatest shooter of all time, barely beat Ionescu, 29-26.

“She should have shot from the women’s line,” Smith said immediately after Curry’s clutch shots. “That would have been a fair contest.”

Reggie Miller, TNT’s other analyst on the event, tried to bring the broadcast back on the rails.

“Why are you putting those boundaries on her? She wanted to shoot from there,” Miller said.

Smith kept going, adding, “She should have shot from the line. There is a women’s tee in golf and there is a men’s tee for a reason.”

Everyone watching was more than ready to tap out of this conversation, but then it got extra odd with Miller adding, “According to you, you want her to be playing with dolls.”

Smith said, “No, I want her to shoot from where you shoot from. And there is nothing wrong with playing with dolls.”

It is not outlandish to suggest that each shooter should fire from within the guidelines of their league’s rules. But this is pregame chatter, not something in the middle of a nice moment. And Ionescu herself wanted to shoot from NBA range.

What Smith said demeaned Ionescu’s outstanding performance. If she had just competed in the regular NBA 3-point contest Saturday night, her 26-point performance would have tied the champion Damian Lillard’s score in the final round.

If that had happened, the immediate reaction wouldn’t be, “Should she have shot from in closer?”

Smith and TNT’s issue the whole night was too much Statler and Waldorf and not enough celebration.

We are all for criticism, but this was a fun event, and every moment doesn’t need to be compared as if it is up to some standard of the way past. We are all watching for the event. A broadcast is not Twitter/X, where you go to complain about everything (although Smith and Miller were dead-on concerning the legendarily bad dunk contest judges.)

Smith is an important part of the most iconic studio show of all time, “Inside the NBA.” What makes it the best — well, besides Charles Barkley — is that the panelists will curmudgeonly say anything about the NBA, or each other, or the world. That works because a studio show is a blank slate to create sports TV art.

On Saturday night, we were all enjoying the pictures on our screen. With women’s hoops having what very well could be a renaissance moment, led by Caitlin Clark, here we were on the biggest professional stage, with the man considered the best shooter of all time squaring off against Ionescu.

It was a wonderful moment for basketball. That was what Smith missed.

In that moment, when Ionescu went shot for shot with the king, the commentary should have reflected the competition. Smith’s intentions may not have been bad, but, unlike Ionescu, he just missed the moment.

(Photo of Kenny Smith: Jamie Schwaberow / NBAE via Getty Images)

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