Former NBA star and two-time NBA Champion Kenny “The Jet” Smith sits between Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal on the entertaining basketball staple show The NBA on TNT. Smith often sounds like the voice of calm and reason on the set — not always a difficult task when you’re next to Charles Barkley — but it turns out there’s a reason for Smith’s comparably studious approach to analyzing basketball. The Jet was, he says, the “student athlete of the year in New York City” when he graduated from high school.
Smith, who went to North Carolina on a full scholarship, said he got into college because he was “skilled and academically inclined.” (The realist Barkley frankly says he got in because he averaged 20 points and 20 rebounds a game.)
Smith’s late mother was a beloved schoolteacher, so academics were a big part of his household growing up. Smith also says he scored 1100 on the SAT, an excellent total that would have then qualified him for admission to plenty of schools even without basketball. But it wasn’t without a little pain that Smith achieved his enviable academic standing. As he says, “back then there was the ruler.” Smith says that if he brought home a grade that was anything less than a C, he would receive painful strikes on the knuckles with the ruler. Smith says he got the ruler whacks at home and “at Catholic school as well.”