Inside the NBA

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Inside The NBA
Inside the NBA title card
StarringErnie Johnson
Kenny Smith
Charles Barkley
Shaquille O'Neal
Country of originUnited States
Running time30–60 minutes
Original networkTNT (1989–present)
NBA TV (2003–present)
Original releaseNovember 4, 1989 (1989-11-04) –
External links

Inside the NBA, branded for sponsorship purposes as Inside the NBA presented by Kia, is the postgame show for NBA on TNT broadcasts. The program features host Ernie Johnson with analysts Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley, and Shaquille O'Neal, with supporting or fill-in analysts including Chris Webber, Grant Hill and Draymond Green.

By the end of 2021, the show has won fifteen Sports Emmy Awards. Six times for the best daily show (2002, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2014), five times for the best weekly show (2012, 2014, 2019, 2020, 2021), two times for the best limited run show (2019, 2021), 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).

In addition to those winnings, it was announced live on the May 11th, 2016 edition that Inside would be inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame in October 2016, becoming just the twelfth program to receive the honor and the third sports show to do so after SportsCenter and Monday Night Football.[1]



Inside the NBA debuted after TNT was awarded the rights to broadcast NBA games in the 1989–90 season. In its first season, there were no permanent hosts nor analysts. Craig Sager, Hannah Storm, Vince Cellini, Tim Brando and Fred Hickman shared hosting duties at various points of the season. It was not until the following season that Ernie Johnson Jr., at the time a sideline reporter, took over as the show's full-time host, a role he retains to this day.

Initially, Inside the NBA had a simple format, focusing more 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. It was not until 1998, however, that the addition of Kenny Smith gave a glimpse of what was to come.


Smith's entry brought insightful analysis and a comedic element to Inside the NBA, something that would become a theme in the years to come. But it was before the 2000–01 season that the show found its perfect foil for Smith.

Newly-retired former NBA All-Star Charles Barkley joined TNT that year and became notorious for his controversial comments and outrageous bets.

In late 2002, Barkley told Kenny Smith that he would "kiss [his] ass" if Houston Rockets then-rookie Yao Ming scored nineteen points in a game,[2] 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),[3] led to a sometimes heated debate on the TNT studio show. During the 2006 NBA Playoffs, in response to performer David Blaine's attempt to stay under water for nine minutes, Barkley duplicated the stunt with a small tub of water but only managed to stay under water for 24 seconds. Barkley has also been weighed on air several times, and once said "bullshit" live on air.

Following the release of Django Unchained, Barkley will joke he isn't going to "take it any more master," referring to Ernie Johnson. Johnson has a whip sound effect he uses when Barkley or O'Neal's conversations go far off topic, and for a segment called "The Whip" that provoked jokes from the other hosts - for example, Smith saying, "Revolt, revolt!" Smith has also been the brunt of jokes before, an example being the "retirement" of his jersey on air. In reality, it was a Tracy McGrady jersey with Smith's name put on a clothesline and "raised" to the TNT studio roof on a clothesline with various undergarments. Most of the jokes were featured as Ernie Johnson's E.J.'s Neat-O Stat of the Night, the show's closing segment.

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 recently retired player Shaquille O'Neal as a studio analyst. O'Neal's addition raised Inside the NBA's profile even further, his greatest contribution being the now-famous Shaqtin' a Fool segment featuring blooper reels involving various NBA players.

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 have also 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.

As of the 2021–22 season, Inside the NBA airs after TNT Tuesday games during the NFL regular season (TNT moved its marquee games to Tuesday in autumn/early winter in order to avoid competition with Thursday Night Football), and on Thursday nights starting in January. The postgame shows after TNT Tuesday games (beginning in January) were simply rebranded as the NBA on TNT Postgame Show, with Adam Leftkoe as host alongside analysts O'Neal, Candace Parker and Dwyane Wade.

Catchphrases and quotes[edit]

Recurring segments[edit]

  • Shaqtin' a Fool – 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 and Brandon Knight although even All-Stars like LeBron James, Blake Griffin, James Harden and Russell Westbrook have been featured.
  • Area 21 – 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 left unused.
  • EJ's Neat-O Stat of the Night – The traditional ending segment, sometimes noted for its lack of continued sponsorship (if there is no sponsor, the phrases "Presented one," and "Unsullied by sponsorship since 1989!" are used). However, Johnson has used sponsorships like: Dave & Buster's, Taco Bell, Jim Beam, JBL, and EA Sports as sponsors of the show. It can sometimes feature interesting or humorous stats, but it can also eschew the stats in favor of a humorous segment. Some examples include:
    • The presentation of a Justice League comic made specially by DC Comics for NBA All-Star Weekend 2014 featuring Superman, Green Lantern, Flash and Steel (who O'Neal once played in a movie) and guest-starring O'Neal, Barkley, Smith and Johnson.[6]
    • A segment featuring Kobe Bryant where Smith tried to duplicate Bryant putting on Nikes and jumping over a speeding car.[7]
    • Who He Play For?, A start-of-season customary game where Barkley is challenged to name the new teams of a number of NBA journeymen.
    • A segment reminiscent of a scene in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy where Johnson pulled a Teleprompter prank on Barkley.[8]
    • A free-throw shooting contest between O'Neal and Kristen Ledlow, who had recently been named co-host of the revived Inside Stuff.[9]
    • Tracy McGrady pitching to Johnson, including O'Neal leading the crew in baseball chants and songs, following McGrady pitching one game for the Sugar Land Skeeters.[10]
    • The official announcement of Inside being inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame.
    • Barkley facing O'Neal in a version of the NHL All-Star Skills Competition's Accuracy Shooting challenge with guest Wayne Gretzky, following Gretzky's debut as an NHL on TNT analyst for Turner's first season with a national hockey contract.[11]
    • Audio Toons, old conversations and past events, animated by Cartoon Network
  • Players Only – From 2017 to 2019, this was the name given to the Monday edition, 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.

Charles Barkley[edit]

Race with Dick Bavetta[edit]

While filling in for an injured Steve Kerr on a Los Angeles Lakers-Sacramento Kings broadcast,[12] Charles Barkley made disparaging comments about the age of referee Dick Bavetta.[13] 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 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.[14][15]

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.[16]

Oakland "controversy"[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."[17] The humorous controversy was subsequently put to rest.

Kenny Smith[edit]

Players boycott 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.[18] 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.[19]

Outside the NBA[edit]

Outside the NBA is a Facebook Watch only TV show that debuted on October 20, 2017 where the cast talks about all subjects outside of the NBA.[20]

The Steam Room Podcast[edit]

During the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, Inside the NBA had returned for a brief time virtually on YouTube in the form of a video podcast. After the show's return to air and miscellaneous online video podcast postings featuring some or all members of the crew, namely Johnson usually interviewing a celebrity. Johnson and Barkley then syndicated the video podcasts together online starting in early-2020, naming it The Steam Room as a reference to a running joke from Inside. This new video podcast is more formatted, and primarily consists of interviews and interactions with celebrities that are friends of Barkley and Johnson, sports media personalities, former NBA legends, comedians, or even Michael Jordan's former trainer Tim Grover.[21]



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.[22]


  1. ^ EJ's Neat-o Stat of the Night 5/11/2016 - Special Surprise NBA on TNT on YouTube
  2. ^ " NBA - Barkley pays up, but Smith avoids being butt of joke". Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  3. ^ "Gallery :: Hall of Shame :: siunchained". Archived from the original on 2 February 2007. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  4. ^ "Gone Fishin' with Kenny Smith in 2006". Archived from the original on 2006-06-14. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  5. ^ "TBS MLB Studio crew has Gone Huntin'!". Turner Sports account on Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  6. ^ NBA All Ball Blog - Inside The NBA Meets the Justice League NBA/DC Comics
  7. ^ EJ's Neat-O Stat of the Night – Kenny Does a Kobe YouTube (produced by TNT)
  8. ^ team, Break. " - Funny, Girls, Babes, Jokes, Videos, Photos, Celebrities, Humor and other keywords people type into Google". Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  9. ^ EJ's Neat-O Stat of the Night 11/8/2013 - Shaq vs. Kristen Ledlow YouTube (originally broadcast by TNT)
  10. ^ EJ's Neat-O Stat of the Night 1/18/2016 - T-Mac Pitches to EJ YouTube (originally broadcast by TNT)
  11. ^ EJ's Neat-O Stat of the Night 10/21/2021 – Shaq and Chuck Face Off In Front Of NHL Legend Wayne Gretzky NBA on TNT on YouTube
  12. ^ "Sports Media Watch: Barkley in the booth". Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  13. ^ "TrueHoop". Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  14. ^ "Chauncey weighs in on Barkley-Bavetta race". Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  15. ^ "Bet on Bavetta". Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  16. ^ "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.
  17. ^ Gary Payton Wearing Fabricali on YouTube
  18. ^ Press, Brian Mahoney and Tim Reynolds | Associated. "NBA playoff games called off amid player protests". Retrieved 2020-08-28.
  19. ^ "Kenny Smith walks off 'NBA on TNT' set in solidarity with player strike". Retrieved 2020-08-28.
  20. ^ "Outside the NBA". Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  21. ^ NBA on TNT. "Youtube, The Steam Room".
  22. ^ Deb, Sopan. "He Created the Sports Theme Song You Didn't Know You Knew". New York Times. Retrieved 30 June 2021.