“Inside the NBA” will remain intact: Turner Sports announced Wednesday morning that the quartet of Charles Barkley, Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith will keep the hugely-popular TNT show humming for a few more years.
— TurnerSportsPR (@TurnerSportsPR) May 13, 2015
Terms of their long-term extensions aren’t public, but according to SI, it’s likely in the 4-5 year range for most of the group.
Barkley, whose current deal expires in 2016, has for some time now yearned for “something else to do to”, but he doesn’t appear ready just yet to leave television:
O’Neal joined the studio show in 2011 following a 19-year NBA career and his first few years on Inside the NBA were, to be generous, a work in progress. But O’Neal has improved yearly, and one of his best qualities is his ability to make fun of himself. Turner Sports executives like the chemistry he’s developed with the longtime trio of Barkley (16th year as an analyst), Johnson (26th year as an NBA host on TNT) and Smith (18th year as a studio analyst for TNT) and committed to him with this extension.
But Barkley is the show’s star, and one thing the 52-year-old has made clear is that he’s not working past 60. “Anyone who works past 60 is an idiot (laughs),” Barkley said last month. “I want to travel the world. Listen, man, if people want to keep working that’s fine. But there is going to come an age when you can’t do stuff and have fun. So why would I want to keep working until the day I die? You should save your money. Learn to tell your family and friends no. One of the great travesties in sports is 70% of professional athletes go broke. It’s a joke and it pisses me off. But I tell all my friends who don’t play sports, ‘Who wants to work when you are 65 or 70?’ Sixty is my magic number. I just turned 52 and I’m not working past 60.”
Turner said Inside the NBA is frequently the second most-watched program on cable throughout the NBA playoffs, trailing only live game coverage.