There has never been a studio show quite like TNT’s Inside the NBA. With Hall of Famers Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal constantly going back and forth with one another, Kenny Smith providing thoughtful analysis, and Ernie Johnson holding it all together, no show gives basketball fans more to think — or laugh about — during the season.
Despite the wonderful chemistry and multiple accolades, Barkley might not be in for much longer. Chuck has repeatedly discussed leaving the show behind and retiring in the near future. But Shaq doesn’t see his sparring partner ever leaving the best studio show in sports.
Charles Barkley plans to retire soon
When Barkley joined Johnson and Smith ahead of the 2000-01 season, viewers got their first glimpse of what TNT’s NBA show would be about. The trio offered analysis, hilarity, and hijinks on a weekly basis all while rapidly surging in popularity. Things only grew more once O’Neal joined the fold before the 2011-12 season, completing the cast we see today. However, despite over 20 years on the job, Chuck says he’s close to the end.
“I’m trying to hang on for another couple of years until I’m 60, and then, they can kiss my a**,” Barkley said earlier this summer. “I’m only working until 60. I’ve already told them that. I’m not working until the day I die. That’s just stupid. And if I don’t have enough money by now, I’m an idiot, anyway. They should fire me, anyway.”
Barkley, 58, mentioned one of the reasons he doesn’t want to work much longer is cancel culture. The former MVP has never been afraid to speak his mind and say controversial things ever since he arrived on TNT.
“That’s all we ever talk about behind the scenes, like, ‘Yo, man, be careful going in this direction.’ I’m like, ‘Yo, man, we can’t even have fun anymore,'” Barkley added, per Yahoo. “We’ve had fun all these years, and now, all of a sudden, in the last year-and-a-half, everybody is trying to get everybody fired, and it really sucks.”
Shaquille O’Neal doesn’t see Barkley ever leaving
On the surface, Chuck’s comments make it seem he isn’t much longer for Inside the NBA. However, his greatest friend and foe believes otherwise.
Shaq was a guest on Marchand and Ourand, a podcast covering all things sports media. O’Neal was asked directly whether he belies Barkley will truly leave within the next couple of years (h/t New York Post).
“He’s never gonna quit. Charles is gonna be here forever. We need him, and he needs us. I’m convinced that if I’m retired and I don’t do nothing, I will falter away. This is what we do and what we live for. It’s what we’ve been doing, and we need each other.”Shaquille O’Neal
Barkley cited age and cancel culture as reasons he plans to walk away. However, O’Neal claims it’s far from the first time Chuck has made plans to abandon the show.
“Look, I’ve been here 11 years. I’ve heard that spiel before,” O’Neal added. “But he’s gonna be here ’til the wheels fall off.”
A massive payday could be coming Barkley’s way
Sure, Barkley’s net worth of $50 million proves he’s hardly strapped for cash. But money talks, and Chuck could be surrounded by even more of it very soon.
As the New York Post points out, TNT’s parent company WarnerMedia is working toward a merger with Discovery. The new union would all but certainly want to keep Inside the NBA as is, with Barkley arguably serving as the most important cast member. Should Charles remain firm in his retirement plans, they could offer him money until he simply can’t refuse.
No one knows how this will unfold. But many basketball fans are hoping Shaq is right and Barkley stays put for a little while longer.