By Khalid Salaam

Yesterday (Oct 29th) I attended the NBA on TNT Media Luncheon which is basically a chance for us media folks to sit down with Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and the behind the scenes people who put it all together. It was located here in NY at the Time Warner Center, which for some reason or another I had never even been to in any context. It was obviously a nice building but I was initially taken aback by the security measures in place at the building. To get upstairs to the conference where the luncheon was taking place at, I had to go to three separate security access only doors. Meaning I walked up to the door, told the security guard where I was going and then they had to buzz me in. It seemed a bit much and had me wondering if there are other things taking place in the building besides “media stuff.”

So I get to the conference room (with an amazing view or Central Park btw) grabbed a salad and a tuna sandwich and made the rounds with the other media members. There were writers there from the NY Times, NY Post, ESPN all the usual suspects. Everyone was sorta quiet and standoffish. Maybe I was too, I don’t know. I did speak to the guy sitting to my left so that’s something. After about 10 minutes. Turner Sports PR Head Jeff Pomeroy and Turner Sports President David Levy came in and spoke to us, making the necessary small talk until Charles and Kenny arrived. Once they did the 1st thing discussed by Kenny Smith is the Kobe situation, saying among other things that “Kobe broke NBA etiquette rules” and that its crazy to him that the Lakers could lose both Shaq and Kobe in a 4 year stretch. Saying that “ these are the two biggest guys to leave a team in a short period in the history of the NBA.”

Charles agrees with him and promises to go all in regarding Kobe on tonight’s show, then goes into a tangent about how the Cavs are gonna suck this year. I ask him why and continue by saying it may have been a fluke for them to make the Finals but they will surely make the playoffs. We go on like this for about 2 minutes, which is cool for me since I kinda like debating (a tool which will come in handy when I run for a Senate seat one day. What you think I’m bullsh*ttin? Not really) sometimes. So Barkley bets me that the Cavs won’t make the postseason, so I take the bet. He asks what I wanna put up and I almost said 10 large but if Lebron were to get hurt I’d be in trouble so we decided on dinner. Granted Barkley is a gambler so that may have just been a natural reaction for him but I was serious. It’s in the spring so we both may forget so hopefully the readers out there will remind me. Or him.

We then all discuss our Finals picks and playoff surprises. Charles says he likes the Nets in the East and then says, “watch out, my Atlanta Hawks will make the playoffs!”
Weird I know.

The Ref/Donaghy scandal dominated much of the conversation with both Kenny and Charles saying they liked David Stern’s response and that as long as it’s just one guy and not widespread that’s it won’t hurt the League.

They disagreed with how to deal with the ref’s going to casino’s though. CB’s point was that you can’t control what people do in the off-season or in their private time. If refs want to gamble on blackjack or a slot machine then that’s fine. “It’s too big of a leap to go from that to betting on NBA games. I don’t think NBA referees are that stupid,” he said.

Kenny was totally against it though. “For this year at least, I don’t think the refs should be allowed to go to casino’s. You have to do this for perception reasons and in order to save the League the games can’t look fixed” he said.

They discussed the Kobe/Lakers situation again (they both blame Kobe) of course and the Celtics (Kenny likes them in the East but feels as though that PG play is their Achilles heel). They also spent a lot of time talking about NBA ratings demise that took place in last years Finals and that they are pissed that a few people’s choices can dictate so much.

“Look I’ve never known anyone who has a Nielsen’s box. The ratings people are full of shit,” CB says. “It depends on who you are as far as taste. If you ask me and Kenny and the brother over there (meaning me) then Sanford and Son would have been the number 1 show ever. It just depends.”

The conversation closed with talks of international play. Kenny is all for it, saying that there would have to be several teams overseas to make it work and that NBA teams could go at a two-week time to cut down on travel. Charles replies that logistically it would be too difficult and would affect the actual game due to player’s fatigue.

These sorts of events can be a bore but both Kenny and Charles bring a lot to the table intellectually and style-wise so it ended up being a pretty worthwhile event.