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The Sactown Greatest, #14: Kenny Smith

(This is the third piece in our series, The Sactown Greatest, which documents our picks for the best Kings in Sacramento history. LaSalle Thompson was #15.)

Like LaSalle before him, Kenny was one of those good players on some really bad Sacramento squads who managed to fill Arco every night, despite a horrific record. In fact, Kenny's rookie season (1988-1989) was also Arco's rookie year. And for the time being, only Arco is still associated with the Kings...

If you picture Kenny Smith in your head, he's more likely wearing a suit and tie, sitting behind a TNT sports desk and talking smack with Sir Charles Barkley than wearing a basketball jersey.

Yet for just over 2 1/2 seasons, he played a key role as point guard for the Sacramento Kings, joining the team in 1988 at the age of 22, after four full seasons as a North Carolina Tar Heel - back in that prehistoric period when the kids used to stay all four years. In fact, Smith not only left college with the school's all-time assist record, but also a degree, in industrial relations.

Kenny was drafted sixth overall in the 1987 NBA draft, which saw David Robinson picked first, and Scottie Pippen fifth, just ahead of him.

(Of course, the Supersonics later opted to trade Pippen straight up for "Mr. Zero" Olden Polynice in a "brilliant" move, but to belabor that issue would be a whole different topic entirely...)

In his 1988 rookie season, for a team that didn't even win a third of its games (trust me, I listened to a ton of them), Smith averaged nearly 14 points with just over seven assists per game in 61 contests, and was named to the NBA's all rookie club.

The following season, the Kings got even worse, if that can be believed, winning only 23 games, the worst record ever in team history following the onset of the 82-game schedule. But, Smith got even better, playing what was arguably the best season of his career, and most certainly his best as a King, as he played in 81 contests, and saw his points per game totals rise to more than 17, and assists jump to nearly eight. In 1989, Smith led the Kings in games played, total points and assists.

But despite his strong start, Smith's time with the Kings in Sacramento was cut short just over halfway through another disappointing season of .300 ball, when he was dealt to the Atlanta Hawks in 1990, having averaged 15 points a game and more than 6 1/2 assists. And that was it - Kenny went on to greater fame and fortune with the Houston Rockets, garnering two championships before finally settling behind the microphone after the end of the 1997-1998 season.

For those of you too young to remember Smith, or new entrants to the Sacramento Kings fan club, Kenny was a Mike Bibby clone, almost two decades removed, without the need to toss the ball from behind the arc. And he never made the playoffs as a King - instead of being paired up with Stojakovic and Webber, he ran the floor with legends like Otis Thorpe, Reggie Theus, Wayman Tisdale and Rodney McCray. While Kenny made Sactown Royalty's Top 16, will any of those guys? Stay tuned...