Kenny Smith doubles down on Sabrina Ionescu take: ‘People who don’t actually play the sport don’t understand’

Robert Marvi
4 Min Read

NBA All-Star Saturday featured an extra treat for fans, as Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry competed against Sabrina Ionescu of the WNBA’s New York Liberty in a 3-point shootout.

However, “Inside the NBA” host Kenny Smith said Ionescu should’ve shot from the WNBA’s 3-point line rather than the NBA 3-point arc, which led to some criticism. Smith defended his comments when asked about them by Stephen A. Smith.

“She shoulda shot from the women’s line,” said Kenny Smith during the contest. “That would’ve been a fair contest. … There’s a women’s tee in golf, and there’s a men’s tee for a reason. … It’s not fair.”

“Most people who know basketball understood what I was talking about,” said Kenny Smith afterward. “Actually, I was advocating for her more than anything else because basketball is muscle memory. So, he practices from one range, she practices from the other. … Why is he getting the advantage to shoot at his line. That’s an advantage. It’s not gender. It’s not genetics. It’s an advantage. Shooting is only muscle memory. People who don’t actually play the sport don’t understand it’s all muscle memory.”

Kenny Smith’s argument is that while Curry shoots from beyond 22-24 feet, which is how far the 3-point line is from the basket in the NBA, Ionescu practices 3-point shots from a slightly closer distance, which corresponds to the distance between the WNBA’s 3-point line and the hoop. He argued that Ionescu shooting shots during the competition from the more distant NBA 3-point line was a disadvantage for her.

However, she more than held her own versus the greatest outside shooter in basketball history. She scored 26 points, which put the heat on Curry, who put up 29 points to narrowly win.

Ionescu is developing into a basketball heavyweight of her own. She has career averages of 15.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.9 assists a game, and last year, she shot an outstanding 44.8 percent from 3-point range.

She has been a WNBA All-Star twice in four seasons, and in 2023, she led New York to the championship series, where it lost to the Las Vegas Aces.

There is no doubt that NBA All-Star Weekend isn’t quite the draw it was in the 1990s or even in the 2000s. The All-Star Game itself has devolved into a very casual outing where players put forth very little defensive effort, while the Slam Dunk Contest, critics say, has become boring because of the lack of star power.

But the 3-Point Contest is still fairly exciting, and Shams Charania even noted that next year, the Curry-Ionescu competition could be expanded into a two-on-two battle.

The 2025 NBA All-Star Game will take place at Chase Center, the arena Curry and the Warriors call home.

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Robert is a native of Santa Monica, Calif. and a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has been an avid NBA and NFL fan since he was a little kid in the mid-'90s, and he has always loved soaking up knowledge about both leagues and their respective histories. He feels strongly that sports aren't just entertainment, but also a means for learning life lessons.