TNT’s Inside The NBA is the most successful studio show on sports television, and by most accounts, the best. The show’s status comes not from the quality of its analysis or insight into basketball — it’s not noticeably better than other shows, and how could you measure such a thing anyway? — its status comes from the personality and chemistry of host Ernie Johnson and analysts Charles Barkley, Kenny “The Jet” Smith and Shaquille O’Neal.
Now SI.com‘s Richard Deitsch is reporting all four have signed multi-year contract extensions to keep them together for the foreseeable future.
Ernie, Charles and Kenny have been together on Inside since 2001, and the show gained immense popularity thanks to their collective sense of humor and the producers’ willingness to allow the digressions that so often lead to the show’s funniest moments.
When Shaq joined in 2011, many bemoaned TNT messing with a perfect formula, and he justified their concerns by seeming overmatched and clunky with mumbled studio banter. But he’s found his niche as Kenny and Charles’ whipping boy and his willingness to laugh at himself when he inevitably does something ridiculous. Some say the show has become less informative over time, but all agree it’s remained entertaining and relevant in and out of the NBA sphere.
Of course, this was never a sure thing, as Deitsch reports Barkley was expecting to leave when his current contract ran out in 2016. But he’s staying for now, and as he told Deitsch, it won’t be forever:
“Anyone who works past 60 is an idiot (laughs),” Barkley said to SI.com last month. “I want to travel the world. Listen, man, if people want to keep working that’s fine. But there is going to come an age when you can’t do stuff and have fun. So why would I want to keep working until the day I die? You should save your money. Learn to tell your family and friends no. One of the great travesties in sports is, 70 percent of professional athletes go broke. It’s a joke and it pisses me off. But I tell all my friends who don’t play sports, ‘Who wants to work when you are 65 or 70?’ Sixty is my magic number. I just turned 52 and I’m not working past 60.”