“I think the biggest thing now — as a Black man and a former player — I think it’s best for me to not be here tonight,” Smith said.
“I respect that,” host Ernie Johnson responded.
Smith then took off his microphone and left his chair between Johnson and fellow analyst Charles Barkley.
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.