Shaquille O’Neal and TNT Co-Hosts to Part Ways After 13 Years? Analyzing “Inside the NBA” Hurdles That Might End an Era

Shaquille O’Neal and TNT Co-Hosts to Part Ways After 13 Years? Analyzing “Inside the NBA” Hurdles That Might End an Era

Can you imagine the regular NBA seasons without Shaqtin a Fool, EJ’s Neat-o-Stat, Kenny’s Race to the Board, and the Chuck Guarantee? It looks like we might have to get used to that soon. Charles Barkley is hinting that changes could be coming to TNT and it’s not necessarily the NBA finding a new media home. While on The Dan Patrick Show, Chuck disclosed that the contracts of the Inside Guys are also up in the air along with the NBA media rights. Depending on how that goes, this could be disbandment for the Inside Guys. Besides the NBA media rights, the TNT crew’s futures also hinge on the glue that holds them together, aka, Ernie Johnson

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The current panel of Inside the NBA has been existing since 2011, when Shaquille O’Neal retired from the NBA. The Godfather has been hosting the show since it began in 1989. Kenny “The Jet” Smith joined in 1998 and Charles Barkley in 2000. In 2022, the TNT core signed multi-million 10-year contract extensions. But as Chuck now revealed, the contracts came with a clause.

Barkley confirmed that he only agreed to the extension if there was an “opt-out” clause in case TNT doesn’t retain the NBA TV rights when they expire next year. Amazon Prime reportedly struck a deal with the league as a broadcast partner starting from the 2025-26 season but it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of NBA on ESPN and TNT. As much as Chuck loves his TNT family, he said he had to ensure he’s covered in case there’s no basketball on the network.

He didn’t specify if that’s the case for Shaq and Kenny too. The closest Shaq has hinted at leaving was at his Orlando Magic jersey retirement in February. O’Neal has aspirations to be an NBA team owner, especially bringing the NBA expansion team to Las Vegas. But he said at the ceremony that he’d leave TNT if the DeVos family has an opening in the Magic’s ownership group. It doesn’t feel like a joke after what Chuck has said.

But Chuck wondered aloud if Inside the NBA could work without The Godfather. Ernie, who was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2023 after three decades, would likely not leave TNT under any circumstances. Inside the NBA would not be the same without Ernie who has been the only constant in a changing lineup.

Besides, Ernie has multiple other responsibilities at TNT including their baseball coverage. He also covers golf with Chuck and co-hosts the TNT podcast, The Steam Room, which originated on Inside the NBA’s infamous bracelet story. Ernie is deeply embedded in TNT sports and can’t walk away from it even if there’s no basketball. That is not the case for the retired pros-turned-analysts.

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