As television programs go, there are many that aren’t as captivating as Inside the NBA. The show is so entertaining that I know people who don’t watch the NBA game that’s televised that night yet will tune into Ernie & the ex-NBA stars. The word that’s used when people try to explain why it wins awards is chemistry.
Ernie Johnson is the moderator and, maybe because he understands which guys the viewers want to hear, or maybe because he wants to keep getting paid large dollars, or maybe because it’s what his bosses tell him to do, he relinquishes the stage to Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal. Since everyone has an opinion (and they all stink - the punchline of an old adage) and this is my blog, I’ll let you know mine. I feel the best the show was was either when it started and it was only a three-man operation, or when they added Greg Anthony. Maybe I like guards better, but I didn’t think Chris Webber added anything to the show and I think Shaq takes away from it.
For my (cable subscription) money, I don’t see where a fourth person is necessary. In the beginning (not to compare the show to The Bible, it’s not that good), Ernie provided the knowledge that a television pro needs to know - plus he’d throw in a witticism every so often. Kenny’s opinion was gleaned from a guard’s point of view, as well as that of a player who not only was a member of, but was a major contributor to the championship team. Charles gave commentary from a big man’s perspective, and also that of a Hall of Famer. Plus, he’d say blurt out statements like, “There’s a fight I wouldn’t break up,” when player-enforcers David West and Kenyon Martin started to scuffle. That combination was enough. And perfect. Why the producers or directors or Ted Turner or whoever thought the show needed anyone else is as shocking as why they continue to allow Shaq overdo whatever schtick comes to his mind.
What the fans get to see is how varied opinions, based on their experiences, can be - whether you hear analysis from a guard (Kenny or Greg), “The guards need to establish tempo” or from the big guys (Charles, C Webb or Shaq), “They need to get the ball inside.” The fans also get - or have to put up with - depending on the reason a viewer is tuning in, the tomfoolery among the combatants. Often it is hilarious, sometimes with the on-air banter, sometimes with the vignettes the producers put together to tease the guys in the studio. Charles has been an amazingly good sport as the other guys, including those not on camera, continually poke fun at him for various mistakes he’s made, things he’s said or . . . pretty much anything from his life. However, his attitude might just be a case of a healthy salary because the Chuckster once said on-air “I can be bought. If they paid me enough, I’d work for the Klan.” Make no mistake about that, however. On that, he was joking.
Kenny is the perfect foil to Charles (or maybe it’s the other way around). Charles knows the bond the two of them have is such that anytime Kenny’s embarrassing him, it’s only for the sake of good TV. Kenny does a great job when he’s explaining video, illustrating his point so that someone who’s not that into the hoops can understand the point he’s trying to make.
Shaq seems to have been added more to capture the interest of a different demographic of basketball fan with his references to today’s music, dance and lingo. The issue with him is he overdoes it. His stuff becomes old and tired - and he refuses to let up. He either doesn’t know he’s annoying or doesn’t care. Or enjoys it! I mean wasn’t there anybody in the studio telling him “Birdman, Birdman” was getting old? I’m not sure how many times he said it last night but, then again, I can’t count to infinity.
The show has obvious off-camera, inside jokes among the four of them, but those are almost funny in a teasing sort of way. The show can have it’s serious moments as well (apart from the obvious basketball talk). Although Charles can learn from Shaq about overdoing something (enough already with the “Only God’s an expert,”), Chuck has made several poignant statements. It’s apparent when he’s passionate about a topic, e.g. remarking on not taking being an NBA player as seriously as those of the five other professions he mentioned (teacher, policeman, fireman, doctor, military) - although plumbers, electricians, maintenance workers, auto mechanics and others working in fields outside the five he mentioned might be offended. His sincerity does show through. As it did when he remarked:
“The great thing about sports is that it takes you away from reality.”