Turner Sports convinced Charles Barkley to re-up with TNT over $1,700 worth of wine and tequila. No, seriously, that’s what happened.
According to Sir Charles, only a front-office NBA gig could’ve driven him away from Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal.
The “Inside the NBA” crew will stay together through the length of Turner’s deal with the NBA, which runs through the 2024-25 season.
The plan to retain Barkley included an in-home pitch last January by Turner executives when Turner Broadcasting System president David Levy and four of his key management staffers—Tara August, Craig Barry, Lenny Daniels and Tim Kiely—traveled to Barkley’s home in Scottsdale to convince him to stay in broadcasting beyond next year. […] Prior to the in-person meeting, a six-hour Italian feast featuring two magnums of 2009 Bond Estates St Eden Napa Valley Red, two bottles of 1942 Don Julio tequila and plates of pasta and meatballs – the Turner management group had gathered to determine a game plan on how to keep the Inside the NBA crew for the long-term.
As part of the sales job for Barkley, the Turner group compiled a tribute video made up of production people and on-air staffers reflecting on how much they enjoyed working with him. Levy said he was also willing to work out any kind of schedule with Barkley, including assigning him to games as an analyst and opportunities on CNN away from sports. […] “We wanted to show Charles how much he’s loved and not just from a sports perspective but from a company perspective,” Levy said. “And we wanted to come to his house to do it in person. Charles said, ‘If you guys are coming, I want to cook dinner for you.’ We felt very good after the night that he would be with us for a long time. He did tell us he would stay before we left, but you really want to hear the next morning.” […] The next morning Barkley and Levy played golf near Barkley’s house. “After the round of golf, he basically said he was staying,” Levy said.
“My agent never got involved,” Barkley said. “That’s how much respect I have for David. David bought two bottles of wine, two bottles of tequila and we killed them. The money at this stage of my life does not matter. At this stage of my life, I’m not concerned about money. I shook David’s hand and said, ‘We got a deal.’ I told my agent, ‘We are not haggling or negotiating. Do the deal.'” […] Barkley’s new deal includes access to appear on CNN for issues beyond sports including race, education and politics. Now here’s something that might surprise you: Barkley will also be covering the Olympics for Bleacher Report. Or at least he has the option to do if he wants. (We like that idea very much.)