If Kenny Smith Leaves 'Inside the NBA' Vince Carter is a Natural Replacement

Vince Carter and Kenny Smith
Vince Carter and Kenny Smith / Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Vince Carter's basketball playing days were officially done with after the NBA announced only 22 teams would be heading to Orlando for the season's restart, leaving the Atlanta Hawks out to dry. We don't know when Carter will head into the next stage of his life, but it appears clear what that stage is: sports media.

Carter has been preparing for this next step for a few years, making appearances on ESPN, TNT, and Summer League broadcasts. He also has his own podcast with The Ringer, where he announced his retirement last week. He's comfortable on camera and can communicate his extensive knowledge and experience of the game articulately. That's a rare combination among professional athletes, and one that could make Carter quite a bit of money, as well as turn him into popular figure on whichever network he ends up joining.

Coincidentally, Kenny Smith told Michael McCarthy over at Front Office Sports in a recent interview that he felt it was "inevitable" he would make the jump from media personality to front-office executive. Smith is only 55 and has a pretty sweet gig right now on Inside the NBA, so he's probably in no rush. But once he does leave, TNT will be left with an open spot on the popular studio show. If the timing works out (Smith leaving within a year or Carter taking a few seasons off before embarking on his new career), Carter would be a natural replacement.

The dynamic between three former players moderated by Ernie Johnson has worked extremely well for TNT. There should be another player there besides Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley, if only so the discussions don't end up as a sniping match between those two more than it already does. Carter is cut from the same laid-back, charismatic cloth that makes Smith a good foil within the Inside the NBA quartet.

TNT executives should fall out of their chairs to give Carter a blank check if this becomes a realistic possibility. He brings everything Smith does to the table with a bit more brand recognition for the younger crowd. The stars would have to align just right to make it happen. Perhaps TNT brings Carter on board as the fifth member of the show before Smith moves on. Perhaps the network bides its time. It all depends on what the talent in question wants to do, and when they do it. But it's a natural fit if it does come to be.