March 03, 2021
"Inside the NBA," one of the most popular studio shows in sports media for three-plus decades, is the subject of a four-part documentary that will premiere on TNT on Thursday.
Charles Barkley, one of the show's four cornerstone stars, said in an appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on Tuesday night that he has no regrets joining TNT's NBA coverage.
"It's the best decision I made in my life, Jimmy," Barkley said. "Working with these guys, it's so much fun going to work."
"I mean, number one, getting to watch the best basketball players in the world all the time is pretty special," Barkley continued. "But to go to work and have fun with those guys...when I took the job, Ernie [Johnson] asked me how long I was going to be there. And I said I was going to be here like three years and I'm gonna move on to bigger and better things. But nothing bigger and better has come along, that's why I'm stuck there."
Each episode of the documentary, titled "The Inside Story," will focus on one of the show's four stars: Ernie Johnson, Kenny "The Jet" Smith, Shaquille O'Neal and Barkley. The episode that focuses on Barkley is supposedly the longest one, Kimmel said.
Episodes will air this Thursday through Sunday on TNT. The first and last parts will air after the completion of the New Orleans Pelicans-Miami Heat game on Thursday and the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday. The second and third episodes will air at 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
The 58-year-old Barkley joined TNT in 2000 after retiring from the NBA following a 16-year Hall of Fame career. For the first eight of these, Barkley was a member of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Since joining the network's NBA coverage, Barkley has turned into a television star, exhibiting many of the same outspoken qualities he did during his playing days. Barkley has been awarded four Sports Emmys during his 21-year run on "Inside the NBA."
"Inside the NBA" has become famous for its lighthearted, unscripted analysis of the league and the natural chemistry among the four individuals. Johnson has been at TNT since 1989, Smith joined the network after retiring from the NBA in 1998 and O'Neal came aboard in 2011 following his retirement from basketball.
The show's camaraderie and easy-going nature has also received critical acclaim. "Inside the NBA" has won several Sports Emmy Awards and was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame in 2016.
Kimmel and Barkley also talked about when the latter famously swapped out his No. 34 for No. 32 in honor of Magic Johnson during the 1991-92 season, Barkley's final year in Philadelphia.
Barkley wanted to change numbers to pay tribute to Johnson after the latter revealed that he was HIV positive. But the No. 32, which had been worn by Billy Cunningham, had been retired by the Sixers, and many fans criticized Barkley for wearing the retied number in favor of supporting Johnson.
Barkley said to Kimmel that the backlash he received really pissed him off.
"When [Magic] announced that he was HIV positive, we didn't know a lot about HIV back then and I can't believe [the fans] got mad at me," Barkley said. "I actually called Billy Cunningham and I asked Billy before I went public with it. And Billy said that it would be an awesome tribute to Magic. I can't believe people even got mad about it."
Basketball fans who plan on tuning in for the NBA All-Star Game this Sunday on TNT won't see Barkley, as he told Kimmel that his daughter is getting married this weekend.