Posts Tagged ‘Inside the NBA’

Talk Show: Ernie Johnson

Indiana Pacers vs Miami Heat - Game Two

NEW YORK CITY — Tonight’s tip-off of the NBA on TNT marks not only the 31st year that Turner Sports has been involved with the NBA, but also the 25th year that Ernie Johnson has been the man in the middle of it all. As the host of “Inside the NBA,” TNT’s award-winning studio show, Johnson maintains a semblance of control over a panel featuring Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal, during what usually turns into a free-wheeling free-for-all at the end of a long night of games. With the TNT crew in New York City for their season tip-off show tonight live from Times Square, I sat down with EJ yesterday to talk about Inside’s wild ride.

ME: I saw a clip the other day of Charles and you together in the studio, maybe for the first time, back in the early ’90s.

JOHNSON: Yeah, when he was still playing.

ME: Right. And his voice was completely different …

JOHNSON: Oh, I know! “These two teams have some hostility …” He wasn’t The Chuckster.

ME: When he started regularly on “Inside” 15 years ago now, was he closer to what we see now than what we saw in that old clip?

JOHNSON: Yeah, I thought so. Back then, when he was a player, and I think you see this a lot, players aren’t going to say anything while they’re still playing that might get to somebody. If we’re showing video of somebody in a fight and he says, “Those are two guys who couldn’t break a pane of glass,” then he’s going to hear it next he’s playing against them. I think by the time he got to us — that was probably ’92 or ’93 that first time — he had become the most quotable guy in the league, all-interview team. So all of that built up to when he’s done playing, he had to be on TV and hopefully he would be with us. He’s closer to this than he was to that at the start, if that makes any sense.

ME: Whenever I come by the studios in Atlanta, you’re there in your office hours ahead of being on the air. What is a day like for you? How do you prepare?

JOHNSON: I try to be there 6-7 hours before we go on the air. And I think it’s all because after this many years you get a repetition and you know what a game day is like. It’s not unlike a player’s game day ritual. A player’s going to eat at this time and get to the arena by this time. Like Alex Gordon of the Royals, he’s got this game day regimen where he’s at the ballpark by noon, and he’s working out until this time, he’s got a stopwatch, he’s doing this, doing this, doing this. And I kind of have that same deal, where I use this time to recap last night for my files, I need this time to read the articles from around the country about the teams that are playing tonight, then we have the production meeting, so … it all falls out from that. To me it’s always been about the preparation, and if the day comes when you don’t want to do all the prep work, it’s time for me to say, later. But that hasn’t happened. I still love that. That’s the work. The show is fun, the prep is all the work, and if that prep ever gets to the point where I don’t feel like doing it, I need to check out.


VIDEO: NBA Rookies: Inside Inside

ME: I read an interview with you recently where you said your role on the show is basically being a rogue traffic cop.

JOHNSON: That was that Rolling Stone interview.

ME: Right. You’re usually the one asking the questions of the analysts and the players, but you have opinions yourself and you’ve been doing this 25 years, so, let me ask you, who do you think wins the West and the East this season?

JOHNSON: I think Chicago would be the favorite right now, and I think San Antonio would be the team to beat in the West right now, but again, so many things happen. You know, Kawhi Leonard has played one preseason game and now he’s got this eye thing, so, you don’t know. And Kevin Durant, does he come back 100-percent, or is that something that nags him? So that’s why it’s hard to do that. And you know what? I will share my opinions on that show when I feel like I need to. I got three guys here who have been in every conceivable NBA situation. They’re the ones who fans want to hear from. Sometimes you can tell how I feel because I’m going to throw a question out there that reflects where I’m coming from. But then like in a league-wide situation, I wasn’t hesitant at all to speak out on the Donald Sterling thing last year. That first day I said, “Look, if those are his words, the league has no place for him.” I think knowing your role is a big part of that, and knowing how to get these guys where they want to be, and knowing that if I ask Shaq this, Charles is going to broadside him, that’s where the rogue traffic cop comes in.

ME: How has it changed through the years about working with these three guys?

JOHNSON: I don’t think it’s changed very much. The first night that we ever did a show, Kenny and Charles walked out, and Charles asked Kenny what he was going to say about something, and Kenny said, “You’ll find out.” And that hasn’t changed. That’s been the way we do business. We’ve never said, like, “Hey this year why don’t we have everybody in the production meeting and rehearse each segment twice so we know exactly how long it’s going to last.” That would kill the show. It’s continued in what it does well, and that’s spontaneous, off-the-cuff, unrehearsed, unpredictable. And so no, I don’t think we’ve changed a whole lot.

ME: I guess the most obvious change was when you added Shaq a few years ago.

JOHNSON: You bring Shaq into that dynamic, and he’s the world’s biggest kid. I think what got his attention about the show is all the fun that we have, all the laughs, and that’s what he likes to do. As soon as got a grip on the fact that he had to do some homework. And I told him that the first couple months we all worked together. I said, “As much funny stuff as Chuck says and as outrageous as some of the stuff might be, he comes to the studio every night with at least five things he wants to unload before the night’s over. So do the same thing. Have a take on this team or that team.” And he’s done that. The three guys are so different and come at it from different perspectives, and it’s up to me to move it around.

ME: Charles said he doesn’t know how much longer he’ll do this. How long do you think you guys can keep this up?

JOHNSON: I didn’t think we’d be here today. Because what was it, 2000 when we started? I thought, you know what, when the novelty wears off for Charles, whatever time we can get and have the chance to work together, it’ll be fun. I never thought that coming into the 2014-15 season, we’d be talking about, “Here comes another year with all of us.” And then adding Shaq the last few. In this business you never have the next show guaranteed. And so, I always think whatever we’ve done has been a blessing to do it. Believe me, when we sit out there to get ready to do a show, there’s not a time you don’t look around at these guys and say, “Do you know how many people would like to be sitting in my chair?”

Charles Barkley throws out turrible first pitch

ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — I noted the other day that there have been a ton of NBA-related first pitches thrown at Major League Baseball games this summer and fall. And while I’m still planning on a massive post rounding up all these pitches, I wanted to wait as late as I could so I wouldn’t miss any of these first pitches.

And then Sir Charles comes along and forces my hand. Last night in Chicago, Charles Barkley threw out the first pitch at a Cubs game. And, first of all, it was juuu-ust a bit outside. OK, I’m being generous: It was way wide right and it bounced all the way to the backstop. But, hey, it was better than his golf swing?


VIDEO: Barkley throws out the first pitch at Wrigley Field

Shaq auditions for Pharrell

ALL BALL NERVE CENTERShaquille O’Neal is not only a Hall of Fame basketball player, he also has historically had a variety of interests off the court, from acting to investing to rapping. As a rapper, he’s released six albums, and his first record, Shaq Diesel, actually went platinum. (He once told me, with a laugh, “Two went platinum, two went gold, two went wood.”)

And now that Shaq’s a member of the “Inside the NBA” crew, he’s apparently not quite ready to leave to leave rapping behind. In the video below, Shaq asks Pharrell to consider him for inclusion on the soundtrack of NBA2K15. I’m not sure this is the strongest audition, but it’s a start…


VIDEO: Shaq rap

Play Inside the NBA Bingo

By Lang Whitaker, NBA.com

ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Last night in the run-up to Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, The Powers That Be at Turner Sports released a bingo card based around some of the common words and phrases we see and hear on “Inside the NBA.” As soon as I looked at this I searched for Charles Barkley saying, “First of all…,” and sure enough, there it was. As well as a ton of other stuff…

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NBA Lip Sync Battle

By Lang Whitaker, NBA.com

ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — On his new version of “The Tonight Show,” Jimmy Fallon has introduced lip sync battles, where Fallon and different celebrities try to do the most accurate job of lip syncing and dancing along to various songs.

Thanks to the magic of Instagram, we can now have an NBA version of a lip sync battle, between TNT’s Shaquille O’Neal and Toronto Raptors big man Patrick Patterson.

Let’s start with Shaq Diesel, who posted this last night from San Antonio, where he was in attendance at the Spurs/Thunder Game 1, and he filmed himself giving an impromptu lip sync rendition of the National Anthem…

And then in this corner we have Patterson, who wrote in the caption, “Never Michael Jackson and drive…This is what happens when I drive for a long time…#dontjudgeme #actinafool #areuok #whyimsingle”

You’ve seen the video, now give us your vote. Who wins round one of the NBA Lip Sync Battle?

Charles Barkley caught a cramp

By Lang Whitaker, NBA.com

ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — What’s worse, getting a painful cramp in your leg, or working with people who try to convince you to do crazy stuff while you’re suffering from that cramp? Charles Barkley had to opportunity to find out last night on “Inside the NBA.”


VIDEO: Charles Barkley gets a cramp

Charles Barkley’s TNT Debut

By Lang Whitaker, NBA.com

This video has been around for a few years, but has only recently started drawing attention. During the 1992 Playoffs, Charles Barkley, who was still an active player, came to Atlanta and sat in the Turner Studio for the night alongside Ernie Johnson. Charles making a career out of this would come later, but for a first time the Chuckster was pretty good. A few things to note:

1. Chuck’s voice sounded a bit higher back then. Yelling Chuck apparently came later.
2. Ernie Johnson seems to have a Trapper Keeper full of information on the desk.
3. That set! That music!


VIDEO: Charles Barkley TNT Debut

(via SI)

Barkley vs. Shaq heats up

By Lang Whitaker, NBA.com

ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Last week during the NCAA Tournament broadcast, which featured Charles Barkley as an analyst, Chuck’s colleague Shaquille O’Neal sent out a tweet poking fun at the Chuckster…

This got noticed, of course, and the folks on the CBS set decided to allow Charles the chance to respond. And Charles definitely responded…


VIDEO: Chuck on Shaq

That clip of Charles went viral, so a few days later, Shaq responded…

Charles doesn’t use any social media, so he was unaware of this until last night when Conan O’Brien showed it to him. This set Charles off on another terrific rant (I love Conan’s reaction)…


VIDEO: Chuck on Shaq II

And just in case you weren’t sure how Charles felt about Shaq, check out Charles hitting golf balls with Shaq’s face on them…


VIDEO: Golf Chuck

Charles Barkley falling asleep on Inside the NBA

By Lang Whitaker, NBA.com

ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Last night on “Inside the NBA,” Charles Barkley nearly fell asleep. (This led to Shaq calling him “Mike Dun-sleepy Jr.”) Hey, it was late, we get it.

GIF here via @CJZero

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The Baron Davis Comeback Continues

ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Last week we saw Baron Davis, who was in New Orleans for the All-Star weekend, attempt to mount an NBA comeback and get pretty much no help from the “Inside the NBA” crew.

This week Baron’s comeback saga continues as he explores the possibility of playing overseas…


VIDEO: Baron’s Comeback Continues