LOS ANGELES – Charles Barkley is never not on. Even in a relaxed setting, the smallest thing can inspire him to bring the intensity that made him one of the NBA’s most fearsome players. He’s harnessed this; look up and it’s been 20 years for Barkley on Turner as one of the leads to Inside The NBA, a show that’s celebrating 30 years this season. The show works because everybody can be themselves, which means Barkley adopts a bit of a coiled snake technique at times, waiting for a topic, or play, or phrase to bring him to life so he can provide the unfiltered honesty and improvisation that has made the show tick for those two decades.
Barkley recounts a discussion he had with Dwyane Wade about the recently-retired guard joining the TNT crew this year at a luncheon held in Shaquille’s, one of Shaq’s restaurants in L.A. located across from the Staples Center.
“I told him you’re gonna watch basketball anyway,” Barkley recalls. “You may as well get paid for it.”
There’s something comforting in that simplicity. Inside doesn’t try to be anything it’s not, and many of the ideas, as Kenny Smith points out, come from the staffers in studio. If something doesn’t work, they abandon it. If they get off key, Ernie Johnson finds a way to decide when and where is the right time to let it breathe or reel it in. The games are secondary; although bad games make for longer nights than marquee matchups.
After the four-man crew riffed for about a half hour on a variety of topics from the NBA’s China situation to the show’s comparison to Yo! MTV Raps, Dime took part in a small group interview with Barkley as he previewed the NBA season. Questions came from the group, including Dime, Ben Golliver of The Washington Post, and several others. Answers have been condensed for clarity.
On if LeBron is still a top five player:
“Well, I mean, yeah, I think he’s a top five player. I mean, last year he got hurt, he was the best player. But he’s definitely a top five player.”
On who else can be considered for that top five (with James and AD):
“Kawhi’s in that group. Giannis … I might put James [Harden] in there. Steph, Steph is in there. Obviously KD when he’s healthy, but yeah, it’s a small list.”