Inside the NBA

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Inside the NBA
Inside the NBA title card
Presented byErnie Johnson Jr.
Country of originUnited States
Running time30–60 minutes
Original release
ReleaseNovember 4, 1989 (1989-11-04) –
present (present)

Inside the NBA, branded for sponsorship purposes as Inside the NBA presented by Kia, is the postgame studio show for NBA on TNT broadcasts. The show is currently hosted by Ernie Johnson (since 1990), joined on set by three analysts: Kenny "The Jet" Smith (1998– ), Charles Barkley (2000– ) and Shaquille O'Neal (2011– ). Notable former analysts have included Magic Johnson (2003–2007), Reggie Miller (2008–2011), and Chris Webber (2008–2011). By the early 2000s, the show was being consistently rated as among the best sports analysis shows on American television, and over its history has won eighteen Sports Emmy Awards.


Inside the NBA debuted after TNT acquired the rights to broadcast NBA games during the 1989–90 season. In its first season, there were no permanent hosts or analysts. Craig Sager, Hannah Storm, Vince Cellini, Tim Brando and Fred Hickman shared hosting duties at various points of the season. In the following season, Ernie Johnson Jr., formerly a sideline reporter, took over as the show's full-time host, a role he retains to this day.

Initially, Inside the NBA focused on recaps of the day's games. Occasionally, Johnson invited a former or current NBA player or coach to sit in as a guest analyst. Kenny Smith joined Johnson full-time in 1998.

Newly-retired former NBA All-Star Charles Barkley joined TNT in 2000 and became notorious for his bold, and at times controversial, statements on the air.

In late 2002, Barkley told Kenny Smith that he would "kiss [his] ass" if Houston Rockets then-rookie Yao Ming scored 19 points in a game,[1] which was followed by Yao doing exactly that later that week. As a result, on Listen Up! With Charles Barkley and Ernie Johnson that Thursday, Barkley kissed the rear end of a donkey that Smith brought into the studio. In 2002, a controversial Sports Illustrated cover, in which Barkley was portrayed in chains (as a slave),[2] led to a debate between Smith and Barkley about the merits of the cover.[3]

During the 2000s, TNT added a third analyst alongside Smith and Barkley. Hall of Famer Magic Johnson served as the third analyst between 2003 and 2007, and Reggie Miller and Chris Webber split the role between 2008 and 2011.

Before the 2011–12 season, TNT hired Shaquille O'Neal as a studio analyst. O'Neal's addition led Inside the NBA to add the Shaqtin' a Fool segment, featuring bloopers from around the league.

During the 2020 and 2021 playoffs, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green made occasional appearances on Inside the NBA. In 2022, Green was added to TNT's analyst roster, and would contribute occasionally on the show while still an active player.

The popularity of the program has led the NBA to air reruns of the show (as well as reruns of other TNT NBA studio programs, NBA Tip-Off, the American Express Halftime Report and Game Break) on the TNT Overtime on Analysts from the show, with the notable exception of Barkley, have been featured in the popular NBA 2K video game series beginning with NBA 2K15. Beginning in 2011, the team has also covered the NCAA men's basketball tournament as CBS began partnering with Turner for NCAA March Madness.

During the 2021–22 season, Inside the NBA aired after TNT Tuesday games during the NFL regular season and on Thursday nights once football season ends. TNT moved its marquee games to Tuesday in the fall and early winter in order to avoid competition with Thursday Night Football. The postgame shows after TNT Tuesday games, beginning in January, were rebranded as the NBA on TNT Postgame Show, with Adam Lefkoe as host and analysts O'Neal, Candace Parker and Dwyane Wade.

Wade decided not to return to NBA on TNT coverage for the 2022–23 season, choosing to focus on other business interests.[4] Jamal Crawford replaced Wade as an analyst on NBA on TNT Tuesdays.[5]

Prior to the 2022–23 season, Warner Bros. Discovery Sports announced contract renewals for all four of the main Inside the NBA panelists, including a 10-year extension for Barkley that he called "a life-altering deal".[6]

Recurring segments[edit]

"Shaqtin' a Fool" is a blooper segment started by O'Neal when he joined the show in 2012 that has become popular since. Frequent nominees include JaVale McGee, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Young, Otto Porter, Brandon Knight and Jordan Poole although even All-Stars like LeBron James, Blake Griffin, James Harden, Andre Drummond and Russell Westbrook have been featured.

"Area 21" was a segment hosted by Kevin Garnett, who joined the show following his retirement before the 2016–17 season. Noted for being more informal and by the presence of a "cuss button" for when Garnett or a guest wants to swear, which has sometimes been left unused.

"EJ's Neat-O Stat of the Night" is the traditional ending segment, sometimes noted for its lack of continued sponsorship ("Presented by NO ONE – Unsullied by sponsorship since 1989"), although Dave & Buster's, Taco Bell, Jim Beam, CarMax, JBL, and EA Sports have sponsored it. It can sometimes feature interesting or humorous stats, but the segment is sometimes used for a comedy sketch. Malika Andrews borrowed the name while appearing on Tip-Off part of the Inside collaboration with NBA Countdown during the 2023 NBA In-Season Tournament semifinals and received Johnson's blessing to use the name.[7]

"Who He Play For?" is a start-of-season customary game where Barkley is challenged to name the new teams of a number of NBA journeymen. Stephen A. Smith also played it while appearing on the show as part of the Inside collaboration with NBA Countdown during the 2023 NBA In-Season Tournament semifinals.[8]

"Audio Toons" are old conversations and past events, animated by Cartoon Network.

"Players Only" was the name given to the Monday edition between 2017 and 2019, reserved for players-turned-analysts such as Webber, O'Neal, Garnett, Isiah Thomas, Chris Bosh and Baron Davis. WNBA players such as Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker would sit in as analysts for these broadcasts.

"Gone Fishin" is a segment aired whenever a team is knocked out of the playoffs (or a team failed to make the playoffs), and is usually accompanied by doctored photos of players on the team, and notable figures from the team's home city, on fishing boats with analyst Kenny Smith. It has its roots in the 1990s; when the Suns had a chance to eliminate a team, their gorilla mascot would hold a fishing pole to indicate the opponents would be "gone fishin'".[citation needed] The catchphrase has its own page on[9] and has also become a metaphor for being eliminated from the playoffs. MLB on TBS uses a similar phrase for when a team gets knocked out of the postseason, called "Gone Huntin", as most North American hunting seasons occur in mid-to-late fall.[10] The NHL on TNT uses a similar phrase for when a team gets knocked out of the postseason, called "Gone Golfin'", as most North American's golfing occur in early-to-late summer.

Notable moments[edit]

Some segments of Inside have become famous and are sometimes referenced in callbacks on other episodes, or in other media.

Barkley's race with Dick Bavetta[edit]

While filling in for an injured Steve Kerr on a Los Angeles Lakers-Sacramento Kings broadcast,[11] Charles Barkley made disparaging comments about the age of referee Dick Bavetta.[12] The conversation between Barkley and play-by-play man Marv Albert eventually led him to comment that he could outrun Bavetta, and any other man of his age (Bavetta was 67 at the time).

This led Johnson and Smith to note that Bavetta, a physically fit referee whose job required him to run up and down the court on a nightly basis, would likely beat Barkley (who had become woefully out of shape compared to his playing career) in a race. Bavetta challenged Barkley to a footrace, which was then scheduled for the upcoming All-Star Weekend.

The race was heavily hyped on the Internet, receiving some mainstream attention as well. Several NBA players weighed in with predictions, and the overwhelming majority picked Bavetta to win the race.[13][14]

Despite being the underdog, Barkley won the race by a comfortable margin. Both men ended up falling after the race; Bavetta dove for the finish line, and Barkley stumbled backwards and fell upon victory. With the race decided, the two exchanged a friendly hug and kiss. The race raised $50,000 for charity, and All-Star Saturday Night on TNT drew its highest number of television households in its twenty-two-year history.[15]

Barkley's beef with Oakland[edit]

During the 2007 NBA Playoffs, following the Golden State Warriors' upset of the Dallas Mavericks, Barkley made some degrading comments about Oakland, California, saying things such as "it makes me mad, mad that they're in Golden State and not LA" and "it's not a city". In response, the scoreboard at the Oracle Arena began showing a graphic of the Warriors' mascot throwing a pie at Barkley.

Oakland native and NBA legend Gary Payton, in his trademark competitive, trash-talking style, went around Oakland with a video camera to rebuke some of Barkley's comments and get some of the locals' opinions on Barkley and his comments, with Payton providing some of his own comments about "Sir Charles" and providing quips such as "It ain't no thrift store, it's Oakland". The humorous segment, which also included embarrassing vintage coverage of Barkley being dunked on in a game against Golden State, aired during Inside the NBA's playoff coverage of the series between the Warriors and the Utah Jazz. The clip culminated with a shot of Payton standing in front of the San Francisco Bay saying "How do you feel about my city now, Chuck? ... Now, come see me, in person, here. I've got a surprise for you, too, a lot of Krispy Kreme donuts."[16] The humorous controversy was subsequently put to rest.

Smith's solidarity with the players' boycott in 2020[edit]

In response to the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Bucks boycotted Game 5 of their series against the Orlando Magic on August 26.[17] Later that day, the NBA announced that in light of the Bucks' decision, all games for the day were postponed. In support for the players boycott, Kenny Smith walked out of the set while the show was aired live. “I think the biggest thing now — as a Black man and a former player — I think it’s best for me to not be here tonight,” Smith said.[18]

ESPN In-Season Tournament collaboration[edit]

Ahead of the knockout stage of the 2023 (inaugural) NBA In-Season Tournament, it was announced that TNT and ESPN would collaborate on coverage involving both their commentary and their pregame and postgame coverage. As part of this, the Inside cast collaborated with their opposite numbers from NBA CountdownMalika Andrews, Stephen A. Smith, Michael Wilbon, Bob Myers and Adrian Wojnarowski – involving Johnson, Kenny Smith, Barkley and O'Neal appearing on Countdown while Andrews, Stephen A. Smith, Wilbon and Myers also appeared on Tip-Off and Stephen A. Smith and Wilbon appeared on Inside.[19][20]

Countdown cast members featured in a number of traditional Inside recurring segments as a result:

  • Andrews borrowing Johnson's Neat-O Stat of the Night on Tip-Off and receiving Johnson's blessing to use the name.[7]
  • A special edition of Shaqtin' a Fool themed around Stephen A. Smith and Wilbon.[21]
  • Stephen A. Smith playing Who He Play For?"[8]


Inside, since Barkley joined the show during the 2000–01 season, has become a particularly popular show due to its combination of league highlights with unscripted banter among the panelists. Bill Simmons of wrote in May 2002, when Johnson, Smith, and Barkley made up the core panel, that Inside was "the greatest TV studio show I've seen." Simmons observed, "A postgame show that occasionally improves on the ratings from the actual game? How rare is that?"[22] In 2014, the New York Times described Inside as "one of the most freewheeling, unpredictable and funny talk shows on television." The "On Comedy" columnist described O'Neal as the "weak link" but generally praised the interplay between the panelists in ways that often veer far from discussions of basketball games.[23]

Commentators have praised Inside the NBA for its panelists' willingness to have serious conversations when circumstances demand them. The panel's comments about the 2016 presidential election, particularly Johnson's, were praised in national media.[24][25] Kenny Smith's solidarity with social justice protests in 2020 was described as "impactful" by a columnist for Sportscasting.[26] "The outpouring of well wishes for Johnson and his family has shown that there may not be a more beloved person in sports media," wrote Jimmy Traina in Sports Illustrated in an article about the panel's public support for Johnson on Inside after his son Michael died.[27] Johnson used his Twitter account and his appearance on Inside the following week to gratefully acknowledge the support he received from his coworkers and from the public.[28]


As of the end of 2023, the show has won eighteen Sports Emmy Awards. Six times for the best daily show (2002, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2014), six times for the best weekly show (2012, 2014, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022), four times for the best weekly show – limited run : playoffs (2019, 2021, 2022, 2023), one for the best decoration and art visuals (2016) and one for the best social TV experience (2019). Johnson has also won six awards as a studio host (2002, 2007, 2015, 2019, 2020, 2021) and Barkley has won four as a studio analyst (2012, 2013, 2017, 2020).

Inside was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame in October 2016, becoming the 12th program to receive the honor and the third sports show after SportsCenter and Monday Night Football.[29] They were also inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020, becoming the first NBA telecast to win the Curt Gowdy Media Award.

Related shows[edit]

Outside the NBA is a show on Facebook Watch that debuted on October 20, 2017. The same panel as on Inside talks about subjects outside of the NBA.[30]

TNT aired The Inside Story, a four-part miniseries documenting Inside the NBA, during the NBA All-Star Break in March 2021. Each 90-minute (with commercials) episode focused on one core panelist.[31] The miniseries was nominated for a Sports Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary Series at the 43rd Sports Emmy Awards.[32]

The Steam Room is a video podcast hosted on YouTube starring Johnson and Barkley, named after a running joke from Inside. The podcast primarily consists of interviews and interactions with celebrities that are friends of Barkley and Johnson, sports media personalities, former NBA legends, comedians, and staff members.[33]


The Inside the NBA crew on location at San Francisco's Pier 43 for the NBA season opening day in late October 2015. From left to right: O'Neal, Johnson, Smith, and Barkley.


Inside the NBA[edit]

NBA on TNT Tuesday[edit]


Theme music[edit]

The current theme song, composed by former guitarist of the progressive rock band Yes, Trevor Rabin has been used since the 2002–2003 season.[34]


  1. ^ " NBA – Barkley pays up, but Smith avoids being butt of joke". ESPN. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  2. ^ "Gallery :: Hall of Shame :: siunchained". Archived from the original on 2 February 2007. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  3. ^ "Barkley Picture Gives S.I. Editor an Opening Foul". The New York Observer. 18 March 2002.
  4. ^ "Dwyane Wade leaves TNT". HoopsHype. 2022-09-14. Retrieved 2022-09-14.
  5. ^ Stinar, Ben. "3x 6th Man of The Year Jamal Crawford Has A New Job". Fastbreak on FanNation. Retrieved 2022-09-28.
  6. ^ Reedy, Joe (October 17, 2022). "Barkley, 'Inside the NBA' crew agree to contract extensions". ABC News. Retrieved October 21, 2022.
  7. ^ a b Inside the NBA; NBA Countdown (7 December 2023). "Stephen A. Smith Joins "Inside the NBA" For In-Season Tournament". YouTube. Bleacher Report (originally broadcast by TNT). Retrieved 16 December 2023.
  8. ^ a b Inside the NBA (8 December 2023). "Stephen A. Smith Joins For A Special Edition Of "Who He Play For?" (EJ's Neato Stat)". YouTube. Turner Network Television. Retrieved 8 December 2023.
  9. ^ "Gone Fishin' with Kenny Smith in 2006". NBA. Archived from the original on 2006-06-14. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  10. ^ Turner Sports. "TBS MLB Studio crew has Gone Huntin'!". Vimeo. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  11. ^ "Sports Media Watch: Barkley in the booth". Sports Media Watch. 3 January 2007. Retrieved March 17, 2022.
  12. ^ Lund, Spencer (February 17, 2017). "Here's How The Legendary Charles Barkley-Dick Bavetta Footrace Went Down". Complex. Retrieved March 17, 2022.
  13. ^ "Chauncey weighs in on Barkley-Bavetta race". Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  14. ^ "Bet on Bavetta". Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  15. ^ "TNT's Coverage of the 2007 NBA All-Star Game Delivers More than 6.8 Million Viewers". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  16. ^ Gary Payton Wearing Fabricali on YouTube
  17. ^ Brian Mahoney and Tim Reynolds. "NBA playoff games called off amid player protests". Associated Press. Retrieved 2020-08-28.
  18. ^ "Kenny Smith walks off 'NBA on TNT' set in solidarity with player strike". Retrieved 2020-08-28.
  19. ^ "TNT Sports to Showcase Inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament Knockout Rounds with Three Nights of Coverage Next Week Across TNT, truTV & Max". Warner Bros. Discovery (Press release). November 28, 2023. Retrieved November 28, 2023.
  20. ^ "ESPN, TNT Collaborate on Game and Studio Coverage for Inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament Semifinals December 7". ESPN Press Room (Press release). November 28, 2023. Retrieved November 28, 2023.
  21. ^ Inside the NBA (8 December 2023). "Your Shaqtin' Winner this Week: Stephen A. Smith (Shaqtin' A Fool)". YouTube. Turner Network Television. Retrieved 8 December 2023.
  22. ^ Simmons, Bill (May 13, 2002). "TNT combo is pure dynamite". Retrieved April 19, 2022.
  23. ^ Zinoman, Jason (November 26, 2014). "Who's Winning? The Night's Quickest Wit". The New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2022.
  24. ^ Gaither, Steven J. (November 10, 2016). "Charles Barkley in 'shock,' Ernie Johnson praying over Donald Trump's election". The Sporting News. Retrieved April 19, 2022.
  25. ^ Deitsch, Richard (November 13, 2016). "Ernie Johnson talks Trump comments that went viral". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved April 19, 2022.
  26. ^ Wysong, David (June 21, 2021). "Kenny 'The Jet' Smith Enjoys 'Inside the NBA' for a Reason Much More Important Than 'Running Into Christmas Trees' and 'Racing to the Big Board'". Sportscasting. Retrieved April 19, 2022.
  27. ^ Traina, Jimmy (November 3, 2021). "'Inside the NBA' Crew Offers Moving Tribute to Ernie Johnson on Death of His Son". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved April 19, 2022.
  28. ^ "NBA On TNT Opens With Tribute To Ernie Johnson's Son Michael | Barrett Media". Barrett Sports Media. November 3, 2021. Retrieved April 19, 2022.
  29. ^ EJ's Neat-o Stat of the Night 5/11/2016 – Special Surprise NBA on TNT on YouTube
  30. ^ "Outside the NBA". Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  31. ^ Casselberry, Ian (March 3, 2021). "TNT's 'The Inside Story' documentary an entertaining, candid chronicle of Inside the NBA's evolution TNT's 'The Inside Story' documentary an entertaining, candid chronicle of Inside the NBA's evolution". Awful Announcing. Retrieved April 19, 2022.
  32. ^ "Nominations announced for Sports Emmy Awards 2022 – Did your favourite show or movie make the cut?". The Bridge. April 12, 2022. Retrieved April 19, 2022.
  33. ^ NBA on TNT. "Youtube, The Steam Room". YouTube.
  34. ^ Deb, Sopan (25 June 2021). "He Created the Sports Theme Song You Didn't Know You Knew". New York Times. Retrieved 30 June 2021.