'Ready to explode': TV host walks off set over NBA protest

Yahoo Sports Staff
·3-min read
Former NBA player turned TV analyst Kenny Smith walked off the 'NBA on TNT' set in solidarity with NBA players who refused to play on Thursday. Picture: TNT
Former NBA player turned TV analyst Kenny Smith walked off the 'NBA on TNT' set in solidarity with NBA players who refused to play on Thursday. Picture: TNT

Former NBA star turned media personality Kenny Smith walked off the “NBA on TNT” set on Thursday (AEST) as the show went to air.

The broadcast was slated as pre-game programming ahead of the playoff game scheduled between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets.

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That game and all others in the NBA were postponed after the Milwaukee Bucks initiated a player walkout before Wednesday’s game against the Orlando Magic to protest racial injustice in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha, Wisconsin police.

Smith, a longtime TNT analyst and 10-year NBA veteran spoke as the show took the air and explained his reasoning before leaving the set.

“This is tough. Right now my head is ready to explode like in the thought of what’s going on,” he said.

“I don’t know if I’m appropriate enough to say it what the players are feeling and how they’re feeling. I haven’t talked to any player.

“Even driving here and getting into the studio, hearing calls and people talking.

“And for me, I think the biggest thing now as a Black man as a former player, I think it’s best for me to support the players and just not to be here tonight.

“And I’ll figure out what happens after that.”

“I respect that,” host Ernie Johnson responded.

Smith then took off his microphone and left his chair between Johnson and fellow analyst Charles Barkley.

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Johnson, Barkley and analyst Shaquille O’Neal sat in silence for a moment. It’s not clear if they were aware of Smith’s plan to leave the set beforehand.

Programming then resumed as O’Neal speculated on what’s next for players and the studio threw to a report from the NBA campus from Yahoo Sports and TNT reporter Chris Haynes.

Smith played in the NBA from 1987-97, winning two NBA championships as the starting point guard for the Houston Rockets. Smith joined Turner Sports shortly after his retirement from the NBA and is a staple of the award-winning “Inside the NBA” studio show and TNT’s NBA coverage.

Kenny Smith is pictured getting up and leaving the 'NBA on TNT' set while on air, in solidarity with NBA players. Picture: TNT
Kenny Smith is pictured getting up and leaving the 'NBA on TNT' set while on air, in solidarity with NBA players. Picture: TNT

The fate of the remainder of the NBA season remains unclear as of Wednesday evening. After the games were postponed, the Bucks released a statement demanding accountability from Kenosha police and Wisconsin lawmakers.

Video emerged Sunday evening of police shooting the 29-year-old Black man and father of three multiple times in the back, leaving him paralysed from the waist down, according to his father.

With Yahoo Sports US/Jason Owens