While no sports fan is tuning in to a game specifically to watch the studio show, the NBA on TNT does a pretty good job of turning out an entertaining product. A large part of that success is due to Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley; in addition to knowing a thing or two about the game of basketball, the two former stars bring plenty of personality to what could otherwise be a bland affair.
As regular Inside the NBA viewers can confirm, the Big Aristotle and Sir Charles aren’t always buddy-buddy on the air; they’re unafraid to argue, and Shaq frequently reminds Barkley that he failed to win an NBA title. Behind the scenes, however, the two men actually get along quite well.
Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley were both NBA stars
Barring some notable exceptions, role players rather than top-tier stars usually find a second career in the media. Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley, however, were both legitimate talents during their NBA careers.
Shaq, of course, burst onto the scene at LSU before joining the Orlando Magic as the first overall pick of the 1992 NBA draft. Due to his sheer size and raw power, O’Neal quickly became one of the league’s most dominant big men.
After leaving Orlando, though, the center became an even bigger star. He won three NBA titles in Los Angeles alongside Kobe Bryant before adding another with the Miami Heat. O’Neal’s star status hasn’t faded in retirement; he’s still a fixture on television and brings in plenty of money from his business decisions.
While Barkley’s career was a bit more colorful—he got into fights and spit on a fan, among other incidents—he was a talented player in his own right. Despite his comparatively small stature and lack of championships, Sir Charles earned his own place in the NBA pantheon; he averaged 22.1 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 3.9 assists during his time and the pros, earning a spot in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
The two NBA veterans make ‘Inside the NBA’ must-see TV
As NFL fans who watched Booger McFarland on Monday Night Football can tell you, pro athletes don’t always make a seamless transition to television. Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley, however, have made TNT’s NBA coverage the cream of the crop.
While the entire Inside the NBA crew, consisting of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Barkley, and O’Neal, all can break down a basketball game with the best of them, the latter two men provide an additional spark. Sir Charles is never shy about speaking his mind; the Big Aristotle also has no problem needling his co-host, poking fun at his lack of NBA championships, among other things.
At the end of the day, that dynamic makes things more fun than a simple studio show.
“I want the fans to enjoy the game,” Barkley told Sean Highkin of For the Win in 2013. “I want them to laugh and have a good time. The hardcore basketball fans are going to watch no matter what. But we want other people to watch our show. We want to get the people who are not basketball fans watching, at least I do. If you want to talk basketball, we can do that. If you want to have fun, we can do that too.”
Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley actually get along quite well
If you’ve watched Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley on Inside the NBA, you might assume that the two big men have a legitimate beef or, at least, some simmering tension. In reality, though, they get along quite well.
“O’Neal revealed that he and Barkley have never had an extended argument or fight off the air even after trading personal insults or having heated disagreements,” Mark Media of USA Today explained. “The reason? After Barkley and O’Neal had an on-court scuffle during the 1999-2000 season, O’Neal realized that both of their moms have been long-time best friends.”
“Both of us are mama’s boys,” Shaq said. “So both of us had to cut it out.”
On the air, though, don’t expect the insults to stop flying anytime soon. Say what you will about Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley, but they aren’t stupid.
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference