Charles Barkley & Ernie Johnson’s 1992 Inside The NBA Audition Tape

Basketball, Columns, J. Tinsley, Sports — By on November 26, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Inside The NBA ranks high on the list of non-family things I cherish most in this world, somewhere between three-day weekends and happy hours. It’s why I’ve always had the same three sentiments about the show for as long as I can remember.

  1. Ernie Johnson is the best point guard in basketball for the way he manages egos, works on the fly and and has established himself as the most irreplaceable host on TV.
  2. Ernie, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley are my favorite “big three” with all due respect to the conglomerate in Miami.
  3. NBA titles be damned. Chuck Barkley is an American icon. Point. Blank. Period.

The cool function about YouTube is, like Pringles (or cocaine if that’s your type of party), we’ve all convinced ourselves one video is enough but somehow get suckered into reeling off six or seven in a row. It’s just one of those unwritten rules of life we’ve come to accept at one point or another. Some recent downtime had me perusing through videos, stumbling across an awesome clip from 1992 with Ernie and Chuck during halftime of the Bulls/Knicks second-round series (not the “Charles Smith game” for those wondering). For a dose of nostalgia and helping set the scene, E.J. was an up-and-coming on-air personality for TNT. Barkley at the same time was one of the best players on the planet and was coming off a personal in-season domination — 23.1 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.8 SPG on 55.2% shooting — but disappointing team finish  since Philly went 35-47 and missed the playoffs.

Of course, the unique quality about the accompanying video is the fact both went on to become co-workers on the best pre- and postgame show on television. And their on-camera chemistry was blatantly evident even 20 years ago. However, equally as interesting are the topics discussed. Take these notes and get a kick out the gift of hindsight, which makes this clip more awesome than most anything you’ll watch today not named Family Guy rapping Chris Brown and Lil Wayne.

Ernie: Dick Versace, our colleague, is fond of saying the NBA stands for “No Babies Allowed.” Is [Phil] Jackson maybe breaking that rule?

Chuck: Well, I think his team doesn’t handle physical play well and he’s just doing what’s best for his team.

Look, we’re all aware the game in 2012 is drastically different than it was in 1992. That still doesn’t mean it was perfect or void of any complaints in ’92 either. Imagine the vaunted Bulls being labeled as “soft” by their peers. Such a critique proved grossly irrelevant given the fact the Bulls would become the team of the decade. Still, who – in 2012, at least – would think there were teams/players viewed as unable to handle physical play during the league’s glory years? This is just further proof time provides teflon for damn near anything in life. In 2032, we’ll be saying how the game in 2012 was so much better off because of X, Y, Z reasons.

The lesson in all this? Yes, the game is different today, but it doesn’t suck either. I do wish refs called the game similar to the way they did in eras past though.

Charles Barkley, Eloquent Specimen 

I’m not sure what it is. Maybe years of wear and tear in the league did it. Maybe it was many a drunken nights Chuck infamously became known for. Maybe Chuck just feels more comfortable now than he did in 1992 and he can really be himself. Whatever the case may be, Barkley’s public speaking abilities here are the equivalent of night-and-day to what we see now.

I was almost let down there were no “Er-neh, Er-neh, lemme tell you something. That guy is turrible, Er-neh”-like quotes found here. Then again, Kobe Bryant (pronounced Kobeh Bryunne in Chuck talk) or LeBron James (LeBrawne Jaymes) weren’t yet in the league either.

The lesson in this? We’re all on our best behavior in the job interview. Even one of the then-finest athletes in the world.

On The Dream Team

Chuck says Clyde Drexler made the squad over the likes of Isiah Thomas based off his 1991-92 season, which was hard to argue given the fact Clyde went stupid in ’91-92 (25-7-7). Given what we know now, Isiah simply didn’t make the team because of his rep around the league as the world’s biggest dickhead, albeit deserved or not. There’s also the sense of pride in Chuck about playing for his country that burned bright in him. Playing on some pretty bad teams in Philly, you kind of get the sense Barkley wanted to play for something worthwhile, something bigger than an All-Star Game.

It’s why he – not Michael Jordan – became the face of the team. Chuck was right though. If that team never came back with the gold medal in 1992, the face of the NBA and basketball worldwide could be drastically different. Not exactly USA-Soviet Union nuclear war-different, but different nonetheless. The money quote from this topic came when addressing Christian Laettner. “Oh, we’re gonna kill him. He’s gonna be a little stronger than the rest of the rookies. They’re gonna start carrying bags next year. He’s gonna be carrying bags all summer.”

Charles’ Faith In The Portland Trail Blazers

Ask anyone who paid close attention to the NBA during the early 1990s and most will likely agree Portland was a squad who probably should have walked away with at least one title. As well-rounded as nearly any team in the league at that point, Chuck not only predicted the Blazers would win the chip in 1992, but should have won it in 1990 and 1991.

Oh, and before anyone begins blasting Chuck because of what we know in the present, remember Michael Jordan once confessed he’d rather play the Blazers in the 1991 Finals as opposed to Magic and the Lakers. But he wasn’t exactly the most confident person in the world when he said it either.

Several more tidbits – like Charles and Doug Collins’ convo towards the end – are all worth nothing, but there’s a sense of appreciation you’ll get by clicking play and viewing for yourself. Ernie went on to become the rock star we know today, ring leader of Inside and all-around awesome guy who kicked cancer in the nuts. Chuck went on to win gold with Team USA later that summer, get traded to Phoenix and enter one of the most dominant calendar runs of any athlete over the past 30 years not many remember or discuss.

Keep in mind Barkley not only came within two victories from winning the NBA Finals that next summer. But he also was named MVP of the 1992-93 season, laid down one of the finest Game 7′s in league history and would have won a title had it not been for Michael Jordan averaging 41-9-6. That’s what prevented Charles Barkley from finishing off that run. Michael Jordan, at the pinnacle of his mental and physical powers, being, well, Michael Jordan at the pinnacle of his mental and physical powers. Talk about horrible luck. Kevin Johnson going ghost didn’t help either. And maybe God was a Bulls fan all along. Who knows, really.

Luckily for us, however, Chuck stuck with this analyst gig. Ernie, too. And we’re all better people because of it. God bless Inside The NBA.

J. Tinsley

@JustinTinsley is stuck halfway between a dream and reality. The plan? To make that dream a reality.

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    9 Comments

  • JAG says:

    Great clip. Charles has come a long way.

    I think Webber complements them better than Shaq does.

  • The funniest thing about this whole clip was the blazers title prediction Chuck made cause quite frankly outside the late 90′s Jazz teams I’ve always felt that Portland was the best challenger to dethrone Chicago. Those Trailblazers teams really did underachieve and to be frank their best shot I thought to win a ring was actually in ’91 when the Lakers upset them in 6 games in the WCF. Portland should’ve come away with at least 1 title in the 90′s. To this day that whole conundrum keeps me scratching my head.

    Great piece Tins!!

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