Ernie Johnson is the ringmaster for sports television’s greatest circus, Inside the NBA. Each week, Johnson hosts the show and does his best to keep Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith on track during the pre-game, halftime and post-game shows.
Johnson’s role is to toe the line between letting the analysts go off on entertaining tangents and arguments — and as he tells us, sometimes actively inciting those incidents — while also hitting his beats for promotional reads, highlights and commercial breaks. It’s a job very few could succeed at, and one no one could do quite as well as Johnson — who even fails at times to hold it together during the absurdity.
While Inside the NBA is his home base, Johnson wears many hats as a host and play-by-play announcer for Turner Sports. For the past month, Johnson has been hosting the studio show for Turner and CBS Sports’ coverage of the NCAA Tournament and this weekend he will host pregame coverage for the Final Four and National Title game from Phoenix.
Johnson spoke with Dime Magazine about the upcoming Final Four, preparing for the tournament during the NBA season, putting Chuck and Kenny in the right spots to succeed, having to tell Shaq to chill out on forcing jokes when he joined Inside the NBA, his favorite unexpected moments from the show, how he learned never to tell Charles Barkley not to do something and what he hopes people get out of his upcoming autobiography Unscripted, which he’ll be signing copies of at the NBA Store on Fifth Avenue in New York on April 4 from 2-3pm ET.