Why Draymond Green Is More Like Shaq Than Charles Barkley For TNT

Draymond Green first dipped a toe in the media waters with a run on TNT for the 2021 Playoffs, and at the time he was viewed as the next star in the sports media space. Green showed off his brilliance as a basketball mind, and some likened him to Charles Barkley for his willingness to speak his mind, crack jokes, and offer blunt criticism when needed.

However, as Green has continued in his TV and podcasting career, he has proven to be less the heir apparent to Barkley, and more like how Shaquille O’Neal was early in his TNT career. When Shaq first arrived on TV, he was fresh off of his playing career and was not willing to let go of some of the personal grudges he had from his playing days, most notably with Dwight Howard. O’Neal bristled at the comparisons Howard received to him as a dominant center on the Orlando Magic, and, for years, Shaq would take any opportunity he got (and sometimes, creating opportunities himself) to critique Dwight or make a joke at his expense.

Beyond that, Shaq had (and, to a degree, still has) a self-seriousness that has never allowed him to be willing to be the butt of a joke. As Barkley put it this week in speaking with Jimmy Traina of SI, “the worst thing you can do to him is laugh at him.” He would try early on to force bits into the show, attempting to one-up Barkley, but they never felt natural and he clashed with the more laid back style of the long-established crew.

As they discussed in their recent documentary, it took a few years and some off-air conversations to get Shaq to settle into a comfortable place on the show. He stopped forcing the funny and instead learned to play off of Chuck, wind him up, or set him up for a joke — a good “whatchya say, Chuck?!” from Shaq is sometimes the funniest thing on the show. That took time and it was partially getting Shaq out of that mindset of still being a competitor. Whether it was Charles on the desk or Howard (or basically any center in the league) on the court, Shaq had to recognize his job was no longer trying to dominate them. That didn’t stop him from being critical of guys or making jokes, it just had to stop being so constant, so forced, and so seemingly personal.

Draymond faces a lot of the same problems as a TV analyst that Shaq had early on in his career. Rudy Gobert is to Draymond what Dwight Howard was to Shaq. He gleefully takes any opportunity to go at Gobert, and while there are times when he drops a genuinely great one-liner, the constant jabs have become grating and take away from the show. He also has a tough time accepting being the butt of jokes, and Charles Barkley has taken advantage of that to get him exceedingly mad at times — especially if he can find a way to compare him with Gobert.

For Green, who is still an active player, I don’t know if he will be able to make the adjustment Shaq did until he’s done playing. He still is actually competing with guys like Gobert and some of those personal beefs with players or teams can’t be set aside until he’s hung up his sneakers for good. Once he’s done playing and gets some separation from the players he’s talking about, I do think Green can be spectacular at TV. His breakdowns when he talks about the game are about as good as it gets, especially talking about the defensive side of the ball. He has a unique ability to explain the game in a fairly concise, digestible way that would provide a lot of value in the basketball studio show landscape.

The problem is, that gets overshadowed by the other stuff, especially when he has to talk about a team like Minnesota where he just flat out doesn’t like a couple of the guys — namely Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns to a lesser degree. I assume Green’s presence is not a small part of why after Game 4, Minnesota didn’t send anyone upstairs to the TNT desk for the customary sitdown with the Inside fellas. That takes away from the show, and until Green is done playing (and even then, maybe a couple years removed from playing), I don’t think he’ll be able to avoid the things that distract from the actual good work he can do on set. But like Shaq, once he’s further removed from his playing days and settles into a role on television — whether it’s with Turner or another network — it’s very easy to see how Draymond Green can excel.