In the previous month, Shaquille O’Neal was last seen asking for a job at his backyard retirement bash.
He said, “TNT, ESPN, CNN. Whoever wants to hire me, give me a call.”
ABC/ESPN called, not long after he pronounced he was done playing basketball after 19 years, 28,596 points, and four championships. They had restricted privileges to the NBA Finals and Stuart Scott’s “boo-yah” in their corner if O’Neal was concerned.
However, when Turner Sports made contact with O’Neal, he did not think twice regarding Emie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley, he reigning king of off-the-cuff basketball remark, for several late-night hijinks. O’Neal signed a multiyear contract to unite TNT’s “Inside the NBA,” putting one of the biggest basketball personalities to its reward-winning studio show.
O’Neal said, “It was very tempting,” who ended his career this previous season with the Celtics. I have a tremendous amount of respect for ABC and ESPN, but I felt that Turner and TNT was the place for me. It’s always been my favorite show. I’d love to be up there hanging with Charles and Ernie and Kenny. I thought that was the best pick for me. It was a deal that I couldn’t resist.’’
Johnson, Smith, and Barkley’s alchemy of vicious sincerity and lighthearted comedy has completed them one of the most well known basketball broadcast teams. O’Neal observed TNT’s team following each game.
O’Neal said, “They like to, as we say in the sports world. And I thought it was the best fit for me. The good thing about this show is everybody has their own opinion.’’
Davis Levy, TBS’s president of sales, distribution, and sports, said that when he was moved toward by executives concerning the possibility of O’Neal uniting the show, Barkley was right away aboard.
O’Neal said, “Charles is a funny guy, he’s a guy that says what’s on his mind. We’re going to make it very fun. We’re going to make it very exciting for the fans to watch.’’