Kenny “The Jet” Smith is well respected for the current role as a studio analyst on TNT’s award-winning show Inside The NBA. Smith was also a ten year NBA vet, notably with the Houston Rockets squad that won back to back NBA titles in 1994 and 1995.
That squad was led by Finals MVP Hakeem Olajuwon.
This year’s Houston Rockets squad boasts the best record in the NBA and is led by James Harden who many consider being this year’s MVP.
Despite all of that Smith doesn’t believe that this year’s Rockets squad compares to the 90’s championship squads for one simple reason.
“Our best player is much better than their best player,” Kenny Smith told Frederick Ennette on a recent episode of the Unnecessary Roughness Podcast.
“They’re a really good team. But when it comes down to it our best player is better than their best player.”
Smith is referring to NBA Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon. During his first title run with the Houston Rockets, Olajuwon became the first and only player in NBA history to win NBA MVP, NBA Finals MVP and Defensive Player Of The Year in the same season.
Smith has been outspoken about his 94/95 Rockets teams. Last year, Smith notably told me on the Scoop B Radio Podcast that his ’94 Rockets would have beaten the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals even if Michael Jordan hadn’t retired.
“Oh we would’ve beat them,” Smith told me.”And actually, everyone forgets he was playing the second year, he was wearing No. 45 and the team they lost to, the Orlando Magic, we swept them.”
“Even if a good, healthy Michael takes them to seven and maybe wins we would’ve beat the Bulls without a question, they didn’t match up well with us and during those years that they were actually winning championships, which wasn’t the playoffs. We were 8-2 against them during those years. We matched up well with them. We wouldn’t have been scared I tell you that much.”
Retired Chicago Bulls forward, Scottie Pippen disagreed with Smith’s Scoop B Radio claim:
“He forgot what my role was,” Pippen said.
“I cut the head off of snakes. And I’m calling him the snake of that team.”
Pippen’s larger point was that the Rockets’ success hinged on getting the ball to Hakeem Olajuwon – who was in his prime at this time and may have been the best player in the league with Jordan on his baseball sabbatical.
As for Kenny Smith’s comparison of his Rockets teams, despite his beliefs that this year’s Rockets team doesn’t compare to Houston’s championship squads from 1994 and 1995, Smith still believes that they have a real shot to capture the title because the team is much better defensively than it has been in previous years.”They definitely have a shot to win it,” he said.
“They’ve elevated their game from last year in terms of execution.”
This season, the Houston Rockets rank top 10 in the NBA this season in terms of defensive efficiency.”They don’t turn the ball over,” he said.
“They’re not careless with the ball and they’re better defensively in key moments.”
The two-time NBA champion discussed much more than Houston Rockets squads. A Queens, NY native Smith also listed his Mount Rushmore of Queens basketball players.
While Mark Jackson, Bob Cousy and late New York Knick, Anthony Mason where no-brainers for Smith, the rest of that list was a bit more analytical.
“You know that I have to be on it myself,” he said. “We would need a big man in there so I would probably take Ron Artest over Lamar Odom, but that’s a toss up between 5 and 6 and I would put Rafer [Alston].”
Check out Kenny Smith and Fred Ennette’s full conversation above.