Pat McAfee, Stephen A. Smith share same opinion about future of Charles Barkley, Shaq and ‘Inside The NBA’

The world of sports media finds itself in disarray amid rumors that “Inside the NBA,” the TNT-backed soap opera that doubles as a basketball analysis, could end if Turner Sports surrenders its rights to NBA broadcasting in the near future.

The whispers of Turner Sports’ potential regression from hoops maven to hoops wanderer have sent shockwaves across the industry. Charles Barkley — one of the four horsemen of the basketball epic — isn’t the only one taking offense to such a proposition, however. Two of ESPN’s biggest figures — Pat McAfee and Stephen A. Smith — offered their condolences for what TNT could be losing. They also proposed a simple solution to what could be the biggest question to emerge during this postseason: just what will happen to “Inside the NBA”?

Here’s the skinny on McAfee and Smith’s most recent comments regarding the future of “Inside the NBA.”

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What did Pat McAfee say about ‘Inside the NBA?’

McAfee, himself a sports media outsider, offered a simple resolution to the “Inside the NBA” question, telling his thousands of disciples that Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson should just stick to producing their much-lauded television show, even if it’s under a different banner.

“That is the move, boys. That is the move,” McAfee said of Barkley’s suggestion that the crew sign with Barkley’s production company if TNT loses the NBA rights.

“We need them to figure that out. We need that show to stick together for the good of sports media.”

In a scathing appearance on The Dan Patrick Show on Thursday, Barkley — in addition to firing off barbs about Warner Bros. Discovery higher-ups like CEO David Zaslav — floated the idea of keeping the show going on his company, Fine Line Productions.

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“I’ve talked to the guys about everybody signing with my production company,” Barkley said. “I would love to do that if [TNT loses the NBA]… we’re just sitting back waiting on these people to figure out what they’re gonna do.”

McAfee seems to agree. The All-Pro punter-turned-media extraordinaire famously parlayed his podcast’s popularity across social media into a high-profile gig with ESPN. He also noted that his employers could offer a boon to Turner Sports’ prospects — TNT Sports is subleasing two College Football Playoff games from ESPN starting in 2024.

“I like that there’s a business door being opened between ESPN and TNT,” McAfee said. “It feels like a lot of moving pieces. We’re all hoping that it survives.”

What did Stephen A. Smith say about ‘Inside the NBA?’

Smith offered many similar remarks to that of McAfee, sharing the sentiment that the trio of Barkley, O’Neal and Smith should stick together by any means necessary.

“I don’t give a damn what network you are,” Smith said on his podcast. “If you have an opportunity to have Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith together, you do not break that up. I don’t give a s— what anybody says, you keep that together, you don’t mess with it at all. Ever. They’re gonna have Sunday Night Basketball? Let them be your Sunday Night Basketball.”

Smith also indicated that Johnson, a media icon in his own right, should be granted the opportunity to decide whether to join his longtime colleagues on the “Inside the NBA” desk or stay and finish out his career with Turner Sports.

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“We hope the whole TNT team stays together no matter who it’s for,” Smith said. “Them, NBC or whomever. Because I’m not gonna lie to you, I’ve been covering the NBA for 30 years, not seeing those brothers together, it wouldn’t be the same.”

In addition to lauding “Inside the NBA,” Smith rebuffed attempts to compare that show to his work with ESPN’s “NBA Countdown.” The reason why? “Inside the NBA” is all entertainment, while “NBA Countdown” is a sports program.

“ESPN’s a sports news network. TNT and their show, straight up entertainment,” Smith explained. “When you don’t see us on the air, you see SportsCenter. When you don’t see them on the air, you see Law & Order.”

Whether Smith’s assessment is actually true can be debated ad nauseam. “NBA Countdown” has repeatedly attempted to capitalize on the debate-ification of sports media, oftentimes at the detriment of its actual analysis. Smith is no exception, having struggled to recall that Quentin Grimes was traded from his Knicks earlier in the season.

Nevertheless, it seems that both he and McAfee are firmly for “Inside the NBA” retaining its mantle as basketball’s favorite television program. Countless sports fans feel the same way.


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