The mentioned quote from Simmons is related to the time when this foursome, which is already characteristic of the show today, was still missing one link.
The inaugural episode of Inside the NBA aired before the season 1989-1990. In the following season, the first permanent moderator joined Ernie Johnson.
Charles Barkley, who blew the title of most valuable player to Michael Jordan in the 1993 season, and Kenny “Jet” Smith, who was not crowned with individual awards, but who, on the other hand, is proud of two championship titles from 1994 and 1995, sat next to the experienced journalist Ernie Johnson in the studio during the postgame show.
Before the 2011/2012 season, the last (and powerful) part – Shaquille O’Neal – joined the party that specially comments on the results of the match on the TNT station.
The uniqueness of the show combined with the individuality of the individual characters is reminiscent of the legendary BBC motoring show Top Gear. Most of the action here takes place in the studio, but similar to the Hammond-May-Clarkson trio, it is hard to imagine the whole thing without one of the favorite actors.
Thanks to the new contract, the whole gang should stay together for “a number of years to come”. Although the official report does not talk about a specific time, at least in the case of Barkley, it should be a ten-year contract. “The chances of me staying the full ten years are probably zero,” Barkley admitted on The Dan Patrick Show.
According to journalist Andrew Marchand from the New York Post, the value of Barkley’s contract should be at least $100 million, but the amount could be twice as much. According to FOX Sports, it could even be close to 317 million dollars.
During his NBA career, which lasted from 1984 to 2000, “Chuck” earned “just” a little over $40 million with Philadelphia, Phoenix and Houston.
Phoenix’s Charles Barkley celebrates with his coach Paul Westphal in the background. Year 1993.
But the situation in the NBA was completely different. For this season alone, his career earnings would be surpassed by dozens of players…
The show Inside the NBA received the total 17 Sports Emmy Awards. He added another six to it Johnson as the best presenter, he has four Barkley as a studio expert.
“Our partnership with the NBA is very important to us, and this long-term agreement with the Inside the NBA team is a recognition of their importance in that direction,” said Luis Silberwasser, president of Warner Bros., which owns TNT. “Inside the NBA embodies creativity and an innovative spirit,” he added.
“I’ve been on a few championship teams, but nothing compares to this,” Smith said of the new commitment, for which, like Johnson and O’Neal, contract details are not known. “I want to continue beyond basketball because of the cultural impact our show has. I look forward to this season and many more to come.”
Just kidding, but don’t overdo it
“Improvisation,” Johnson, the son of a former MLB baseball pro, called the show’s essential ingredient. “It’s hard to tell how many times I’ve used words like spontaneous or carefree, but that’s exactly how it is.”
“The two essentials are entertainment and basketball,” Barkley said. “You have to find a middle ground because nobody wants to just talk about basketball all the time, nobody wants to just have fun all the time.”
The boundary between the two components quite often merges. An example can be Barkley’s now legendary description of the dismal situation in Phoenix, which fired head coach Jeff Hornack during 2016.
“They just got rid of Jeff Hornack. Hang in there Jeff. You’ll get another chance on a real NBA team,” Chuck assessed while watching a clip from the home game of Phoenix, where he spent four seasons and won the MVP there, against Houston.
Charles Barkley comments on the situation in Phoenix:
Barkley: Look at those empty seats. The best fans in the world are supposed to watch this shit.
Johnson: They have a lot of injuries. All three top scorers are out.
Barkley: They were worth nothing when they had them.
Johnson: I’m just trying to help.
Smith: Hey, Chuck, how does the popcorn taste there?
Barkley: Nasty popcorn.
Johnson: Check out the Suns! He returns to the game with a ten-point streak.
O’Neal: What about hot dogs? How do they taste?
Barkley: They have old and hard buns.
Smith: It must be worth nothing there.
Barkley: It’s scary. Even the beer is stale, Kenny.
Smith: Not so!
Johnson: Houston ends the game with a 20-10 streak. Rockets…
Barkley: Why were you so excited, Ernie? You know they’ll lose in the end. It’s not the first time I’ve seen it.
Johnson: I’m just reporting the facts.
O’Neal: What about the pretzels, Chuck?
Barkley: Pretzels are rock hard. You can break your dentures on them.
Other Barkley statements have also become legendary.
In 2019, for example, following the case of black actor Jussie Smollett, who pretended to be attacked by supporters of Donald Trump, he urged Americans: “Don’t commit crimes with checks. If you’re already breaking the law, don’t write checks!’
Smollett was supposed to send a $3,500 check to the alleged accomplices…
A compilation of the best moments of the Inside the NBA lineup:
A year earlier, he again introduced the new basketball term “triple single”, with which he scathingly assessed 2 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists of Lonzo Ball from the LA Lakers in the game against Indiana.
Inside the NBA includes several regular segments, the most popular of which is Shaqtin’ a Fool, who entered with O’Neal’s addition to the lineup, and focuses on the bad or funny moments of the games. The four-time NBA champion also moderates it, while the other three react.
At the end of the season, viewers vote for Shaqtin MVP. Both point guard Russell Westbrook and pivot JaVale McGee, whose missteps traveled the world through Shaq’s show, received this award twice.
McGee then complained about the negative impact on his career. “I didn’t realize what it was doing to my career until I started moving to other teams.”
“I’ve talked to other coaches and they’ve said, ‘I always saw that footage in Shaqtin’ and the Fool and I had a different opinion of you, I had no idea you were actually a smart guy. Your voice has power, you are a great basketball player.’ It was slowly chipping away at my reputation. As a young 24-year-old basketball player, it just took away my confidence.”
Cleveland’s LeBron James (in black) wraps around Golden State’s JaVale McGee.
Like family, politics is also dealt with
“We’re all one big family – Ernie, Kenny and Shaquille are brothers to me,” Barkley said after the extension.
The closeness of the foursome is evidenced by the recent tragic event in the Johnson family, whose son Michael, who was one of his six adopted children, died at the age of 33.
He and his wife Cheryl adopted him into their family from a Romanian orphanage. “Each one of us is valuable,” Johnson said, explaining why they adopted a child with muscular dystrophy that left him in a wheelchair and on a ventilator for the rest of his adult life. “Don’t marry him, he’s not worth it,” they said to his wife in the orphanage. “He accomplished more and impacted more people in his lifetime than I could have ever hoped for,” Johnson said.
In the Inside the NBA studio, the other members of the lineup also commented on the sad event, Johnson was spending time with his family at the time. “It’s an honor to sit next to you,” Shaq said to Barkley and Smith. “But it’s an even greater honor to sit next to Ernie Johnson.”
Barkley, Smith and O’Neal react to the tragic event:
“Ernie is more than a brother to me. They gave Michael a wonderful, wonderful life. They loved him. I personally wouldn’t have the courage to do that – to adopt a child and have to do all those things,” Barkley admitted honestly.
The study also deals with social and political issues.
“I want to be a part of how to help America with a fractious campaign,” Johnson said in 2016 after Trump was elected president. “In order to be her, I have to look in the mirror and say to myself: How can I be a better person? How can I be a better neighbor? How can I be a better citizen? How can I be a better American?’
Barkley is known for his directness and honesty, both in the sphere of sports and in terms of social opinions. For example, in 2020, when he commented in the studio on the tragic death of a black woman, Breonna Taylor, who was shot by a police officer. “It is terrible that a young woman lost her life. But we have to take into account that her boyfriend shot at the police and shot one. I’m really sorry that she lost her life, but I don’t think we can put it on the same level as the cases of George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery,” he named two African-Americans who died after an unmanaged police intervention, i.e. after a hateful chase by radicalized neighbors.