You knew he was going to do it. Charles Barkley couldn’t help but troll his broadcast buddy Kenny Smith on Monday after Smith’s North Carolina Tar Heels lost the national championship to the Kansas Jayhawks.
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) April 5, 2022
Smith, of course, starred at UNC from 1983-87. He earned All-American honors, before being selected sixth in the 1987 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings.
Barkley and Smith tease each other mercilessly on TNT’s “Inside the NBA,” and when they take their annual March Madness break, it’s no different.
After Kansas’ win in the national semifinals game against Villanova on Saturday, Barkley guaranteed the Jayhawks would win the national title. A Barkley guarantee is anything but, and halfway through Monday’s championship game it looked like another miss for the basketball legend.
Down 15 at the half, it looked like UNC and first-year head coach and UNC alumnus were about to win the national title after dispatching their number one rival Duke on Saturday in the semis. But the Jayhawks mounted a ferocious comeback and pulled out a 72-69 victory.
Barkley sang and danced to the The Village People tune “Y.M.C.A.” in Smith’s face. The former Tar Heel was not happy, turning his back to Barkley.
That loss had to sting for Smith and the Tar Heel nation.
They were a fringe tournament team for most of the season, and then things changed with the final game of the ACC regular season. Carolina was at Duke, their number-one rival in legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski’s last home game at Cameron Indoor. It was supposed to be a celebration for Duke, with all sorts of festivities planned following the game.
The Tar Heels upset the Blue Devils and spoiled Coach K’s final home game.
Carolina entered the ACC tournament with a little momentum and advanced to the semifinals. They entered the NCAA tournament as the eight seed in the east region. The Tar Heels defeated Marquette in round one and then upset the number-one seed, the Baylor Bears, in round two, to advance to the Sweet 16.
In the round of 16, they upset the four-seed UCLA Bruins, and in the Elite Eight the Heels knocked off the tournament darlings, St. Peter’s Peacocks.
Standing in their way in the Final Four was Duke. This was Coach K’s 13th time advancing to the Final Four. Not only did his Blue Devils want revenge for what happened last month at Cameron Indoor, they wanted to advance to the title game with a chance to send K out on top.
But the Tar Heels wouldn’t cooperate. In a close, back-and-forth game, Carolina pulled it out down the stretch; denying Coach K and Duke their chance at a coronation.
In many respects, that was Carolina’s national title game. Defeating Duke and Coach K in the final two meetings is priceless. Of course you get to hang banners and you get rings for winning championships.
But defeating your main rival is something else entirely.
So while it was likely annoying for Smith and Tar Heel fans losing the big lead in the title game, and watching Barkley troll; having sent Coach K into retirement with two straight Ls has to feel good.