Inside The NBA has become a permanent staple in my NBA television viewing experience. No matter if its a 30-point blowout or a triple-overtime thriller, even if I got to get up early the next morning I’m watching the best post-game show in sports history. Period.
For the last 13 years, the combination of Ernie Johnson, Kenny “The Jet” Smith and Charles Barkley has been the trio that made the greatness happen in the late-night hours. While others have come and gone to make it a four-man show in the past, the heart and soul of Inside has always been EJ, Kenny and Chuck.
Needless to say, reading this piece by Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch on Monday, with Barkley saying it will be a struggle to complete his four-year TNT contract, caught me totally off-guard.
“I love my job,” Barkley said. “I love the people I work with. And I’m going to try to do things to keep me engaged. But I have four years left on my current deal and to be honest with you, it’s going to be a struggle for me to make it for the whole four years. I really don’t know how much longer I’m going to do this. I need something more, or something else to do to be honest with you.”
In an extended interview with SI.com, Barkley was contemplative about his future as a broadcaster. The TNT NBA analyst has uttered similar things before — including plenty of talk about an Alabama gubernatorial run — but he offered extended remarks about needing a new challenge. “I only thought I would do this for three or four years but now I have been doing it for 13 years,” Barkley said. “When I got to my fifth year of broadcasting I was like ‘OK, I’ll do this a couple of more years.’ But now I’m like, ‘Dude, you have been doing this for 13 years and if I make it to the end of the contract it will be 17 years.’ Seventeen years is a long time. It’s a lifetime in broadcasting. I personally have to figure out the next challenge for me.”
Doing anything from a period of 13-17 years is a long time. Hell, I have friends that couldn’t stay married for 13-17 months, much less years. Barkley was the original draw of the show, something that Shaquille O’Neal desperately wants to be. (And something that Chris Webber will ultimately ascend to.) If he leaves, it’ll be a sad day, but we as basketball fans were spoiled to have him be so transparent with us for such a long period of time.
Yes, this is only speculation at this point, as Barkley hasn’t exactly put in his two weeks notice yet. However, the appreciation of Sir Charles’ wisdom and country snarkiness on the set will now be in full force. For now, I’ll just reminisce on everybody’s favorite game show … WHO HE PLAY FOR!