Shaq Joins TNT Team
Shaquille O’Neal has had an eventful offseason so far, and he is not even worried about the 2011 NBA lockout. Shaq could not have picked a better time to retire from a game that saw him score 28,596 points, and claim 4 NBA Championship rings in what was an illustrious career for perhaps one of the most dynamic big men that the game has ever seen. Shaq struggled to get on the court when the Boston Celtics needed him the most last season, and rather than hold Boston “hostage” again, as Shaq said himself, he’s going to join Ernie Johnson, Kenny ‘The Jet’ Smith, and none other than ‘Sir’ Charles Barkley on the set of TNT’s Emmy award winning program; “Inside the NBA”. O’Neal signed a multiyear deal with the network, adding one of basketball’s biggest personalities to its award-winning studio show.
The job at ESPN was ready for Shaquille, who will probably still be covering the Finals with ESPN, but when TNT came calling, the big fella answered. “It was very tempting, I have a tremendous amount of respect for ABC and ESPN, but I felt that Turner and TNT was the place for me. It’s always been my favorite show and I’d love to be up there hanging with Charles and Ernie and Kenny. I thought that was the best pick for me and it was a deal that I couldn’t resist’, said O’Neal. Johnson, Smith, and Barkley’s chemistry, brutal honesty and lighthearted humor has made them one of the most popular basketball broadcast teams. O’Neal is a loyal fan of the guys, reminding us that he watched TNT’s team after every game this postseason.“They like to, as we say in the sports world, ‘Keep it real,’ ’’ O’Neal said. “And I thought it was the best fit for me.
The good thing about this show is everybody has their own opinion.’’ ‘Sir Charles’ is thrilled to have Shaq joining the team and when he was approached by executives about the possibility of the acquisition, Barkley was immediately on board, said David Levy, TBS’s president of sales, distribution, and sports. This grouping has all the qualities to make fans want to keep coming back night after night, and that is what TNT is hoping for. Given Shaq’s larger-than-life personality, this move makes perfect sense. Though the show is wildly successful in its own right, it can only get better when you have two guys in Charles Barkley and Shaq who are willing to say or do anything for the viewing audience. That said, as excited as I am about the potential hilarity that the show can produce, my mood is soured by the NBA lockout that will almost surely last the entirety of the 2011-2012 season and prevent me from watching some really funny basketball commentary.
Chris Webber will continue to appear on and call games for NBA TV, but will no longer be a regular part of TNT’s main studio show, SI’s Richard Deitsch reports. I think it is a good trade-off for both networks. Webber keeps a job with an opportunity to fill in as a game commentator from time to time. In the press release announcing the decision, Smith bestowed upon Shaq a new nickname for the broadcasting business. “The addition of ‘The Big Analytical’ will be terrific,” Jet said. “I can’t wait to make verbal passes to the most dominant center of our time.” On the conference call, Shaq said he liked the nickname. “I like that one. Good job, Kenny. That’s pretty good,” O’Neal said.