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Kenny Smith: ‘Inside the NBA’ will ‘never be recreated or reduplicated’

“Inside the NBA,” the centerpiece of TNT’s iconic coverage of the league, is widely regarded as the best sports studio show in television history.

Kenny Smith, one of the four longtime cogs on the esteemed panel that provides the outstanding, informed and frequently whimsical coverage on every “Inside the NBA” telecast, believes the legendary show is presently unrivaled on television, nor will a show ever come along in the future that can match its legacy.

The first episode of a four-part documentary celebrating the impact of “Inside the NBA” will premiere Thursday following TNT’s coverage of the Miami Heat-New Orleans Pelicans game.

To help promote the upcoming docuseries, Smith recently took part in an interview with USA TODAY and addressed how “Inside the NBA” has become such a cultural phenomenon with the celebrated panel featuring himself alongside Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal.

“We can never be recreated or reduplicated. That’s what makes me feel good,” Smith said. There’s only one Charles, only one Shaq, only one me and only one Ernie. Any other show, they make you blend in and fit in to what the show is. We create the environment that the show exists. No one can ever replace any of us. Maybe someone can be added on. But no one can replace any of the four of us, ever. It would not be as good.”

As far as someone stepping in to replace any member of the long-running four-man crew, Smith made it clear the show would lack the magic generated by the panel’s chemistry.

“No one can replace any of the four of us, ever,” Smith said. “It would not be as good.”

While “Inside the NBA” is best known for chicanery and how the panel members love to troll one another from time to time, the show also has its moments of levity. Smith weighed in on one of those times, which involved him walking off the set during a live telecast last August.

Smith’s decision to do so was to show support for NBA players who went on “strike” inside the Walt Disney World bubble in Orlando, Fla., in protest of the Jacob Blake shooting in Wisconsin.

“Everything felt the same,” Smith said of the day of his walkout. “That was not right. Everything is not the same today. I can’t be here. So as soon as Ernie started talking, he put the stamp that everything was starting to feel the same for me. I thought I can’t be a talking head today. I have to join the march.”

All that said, what makes “Inside the NBA” so consistently great is definitely its lighter side.

Between Barkley’s frequently outrageous hot takes on the show, his entertaining and long-running feud with Shaq and EJ somehow keeping things from going off the rails on a nightly basis, “Inside the NBA” is without question a one-of-a-kind in sports broadcasting history.

The show’s ability to blend informed analysis and whimsical shenanigans — while giving each member of the panel their own time to shine — is what makes “Inside the NBA” such a beloved component of the league’s media coverage.

The finale of the “Inside the NBA” docuseries will air on Sunday following the NBA All-Star game, with the second and third installments airing on Friday and Saturday night.