Armed with a contract extension, Shaq is up for anything on TNT’s ‘Inside the NBA’
By NINA MANDELL
Before the start of every ‘Inside the NBA’ on TNT show, the three analysts don’t attend production meetings. There’s no prep, there’s not a rundown of what they’re going to say.
Which means, according to SVP of production Craig Barry, when the camera starts rolling it is all just an adventure.
When the crew — Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith and Johnson announced they had signed multi-year extensions to stay on the air they continued what has become one of the most beloved sports shows in history.
“Philosophically the great television, specifically sports television, comes from great chemistry,” Barry said. “It doesn’t happen often and when it does it’s a little bit like lightning in the bottle. I don’t think you can plan for it … I think it’s the collective sum of the parts that just happens. As for these guys, the collective of their personalities has just lent themselves to a higher level or a more entertaining form of sports television.”
The show takes chemistry, and arguably works because the on-air crew looks like they’re having more fun on set than any other show. The opinions, especially during the season are often hot takes that spark furious arguments. But any sort of truly too serious moment is often broken up by a ridiculous moments.
Of the hilarious moments this season have included mishaps from O’Neal like when he fell down in the middle of a take, which Barkley said is just something at this point they’ve come to expect.
“He’s always pushing the envelope,” Barkley said. “That was funny because it was so unplanned. But if he ever got hurt at work it’s not like anyone would be shocked.”
When asked if he had any safety provisions in his new contract, O’Neal said no — but took it as a sign that nothing is stopping him — or his co-stars from going even more nuts on national television in the coming years.
“No. Not at all,” he said. “I can do whatever I want in the show. Set myself on fire. I can fall off the set.”
“I think the more he falls, the better we are,” added Smith.
Another rare thing to find in the crew: They rarely agree on anything. Take, for example, a simple question about who was going to make it to the finals. Smith, speaking to For The Win in the middle of the Hawks-Cavaliers game said he wasn’t counting out Atlanta yet. Barkley insisted they would be swept. When looking ahead to the finals, Barkley picks the Cavaliers and O’Neal thinks it will be tough to beat Steph Curry.
One thing they do agree on: For the post-signing celebration, they collectively said they felt relief. But was there a celebration?
“No,” said O’Neal. “Of course not.”
“I’m a little disappointed they hired the other three,” added Smith.