Kenny Smith Finally Addresses His Controversial Comments on WNBA Star

Eric Espada/NBAE via Getty Images
Eric Espada/NBAE via Getty Images

Despite the backlash over his All-Star weekend comments about New York Liberty star Sabrina Ionescu, NBA analyst Kenny Smith said he was actually “advocating” for the WNBA player and that the controversy was “much ado about nothing.”

Smith came under fire for his extremely awkward exchange with fellow NBA on TNT analyst Reggie Miller during NBA All-Star Saturday Night. The festivities featured a thrilling three-point contest between Ionescu and Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry, pitting the WNBA’s and NBA’s top shooters against each other. Curry edged out Ionescu by a final tally of 29-26.

Immediately after Curry pulled out the victory with a flurry of clutch shots at the end, Smith insisted Ionescu should have been allowed to shoot from the women’s three-point line, remarks that many found condescending and sexist. (Ionescu competed with the slightly smaller WNBA ball while both players shot from NBA range—something Ionsecu wanted to do.)

“She should have shot from the women’s line. That would have been a fair contest,” Smith declared on Saturday night, prompting Miller to retort: “Why are you putting those boundaries on her? She wanted to shoot from there.”

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Smith kept the debate going, saying there’s “a women’s tee in golf and there is a men’s tee for a reason,” leading Miller to claim that Smith wants “her to be playing with dolls.” Eventually Smith responded that “there is nothing wrong with playing with dolls.”

With sports columnists and reporters accusing Smith of “spoiling” and “ruining” Ionsecu’s moment, the Inside the NBA panelist looked to clarify his remarks Monday on The Stephen A. Smith Show. He dismissed the notion that he was being disrespectful to Ionescu, saying his “history and track record speaks for itself.”

“Most people who know basketball understood what I was talking about,” he declared. “Actually, I was advocating for her, more than anything else, because basketball is muscle memory. So he practices from one range, she practices from another.”

“There’s even a study” to support this, he added, mentioning dart players who are unable to hit their targets if they move even slightly from their normal line. “So I’m like, ‘Why is [Curry] getting the advantage, to shoot at his line? That’s an advantage,” Smith added. “It’s not gender, it’s not genetics.”

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As for Miller’s accusation that he wanted Ionescu “to be playing with dolls,” Smith said he thought his TNT colleague was just trying to be funny.

“I think when Reggie was joking around about, ‘Oh, she can play with dolls,’… I have daughters, my thought when I first heard that was, ‘What’s wrong with that?’ You should play with dolls, and you can do sports,” he noted.

In the end, Smith rejected the idea that he was being at all dismissive of Ionescu’s talents.

“Most people just don’t check the tape, they want to just check the bait,” he proclaimed. “My history and track record speaks for itself.”

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