Charlotte Hornets

‘Inside the NBA’ secret is the cache of chaos

Ernie Johnson loves hosting ‘train wreck’ TV – ‘Inside the NBA’with Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal – on TNT for Turner Sports.
Ernie Johnson loves hosting ‘train wreck’ TV – ‘Inside the NBA’with Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal – on TNT for Turner Sports. Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

“Inside the NBA” is bred of chaos, but authentically so.

The zaniness essential to TNT’s pre- and post-game show success is a disdain for the scripted.

“Every show is somewhere between a walk on the beach and a train wreck,” host Ernie Johnson described of the chemistry between himself and analysts Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal.

Such chemistry has earned nine Sports Emmys since the show’s inception. It works, Johnson said, because this is who these three former NBA stars really are, particularly Barkley.

“Charles is the same guy he was as a player,” Johnson said. “If he wasn’t that way, the show wouldn’t work.”

Johnson said the healthiest thing is no one person’s ego drowns out the others: “Nobody has ever tried to dominate the show. It’s about all of them.”

The Observer asked Johnson, in Charlotte to host TNT’s coverage of the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club, about some NBA issues.

On Kyrie Irving’s trade request to leave the three-time Eastern Conference Cleveland Cavaliers: “Sometimes guys wait their entire careers (for the chance to play for a contender). Now he’s saying, ‘Done that.’…When Kyrie says ‘I want to break out on my own,’ maybe he’s looking (at the Cavs’ situation) with firsthand knowledge.”

On what it will take for someone in the Western Conference to overtake the Golden State Warriors: “They have really good chemistry; I don’t see anything breaking that up.”

On superstars sitting out road games for rest: “Sometimes we forget what it takes (financially) for a family to go to a major sporting event. Then (a team like the Cavs) plays four (games) in five (nights), so we’re going to sit LeBron James down in Salt Lake City.”

On teams on the rise: “Philadelphia has gotten some people’s attention, and Phoenix with all that young talent. Milwaukee fits that mold, too, if they hold on to Giannis” Antetokounmpo.

Bonnell: 704-358-5129: @rick_bonnell

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