via Imago

With TNT’s deal with the NBA ending after the 2024-25 season, an almost four-decade-long partnership between the league and the $13 billion TV network has reached a dead end. Inside the NBA, the program we grew up watching on the TNT network might not be there anymore. Who isn’t going to miss Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley arguing about anything and everything, with Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson watching along? As Charles Barkley has already expressed concern, Shaquille O’Neal’s transfer to another network seems improbable.

Bill Simmons, the host of the eponymous podcast, commented on the expiry of the decades-long deal and the dismantling of the post-match discussion panel: “Barkley and Kenny, they’re gonna be a package deal. The NBA wants to keep Barkley and Kenny as a post-game show for one of the three streamers – NBC Peacock, ESPN, and Amazon (worth $155 billion). They’re going to one of those places. We’re not gonna lose those guys.” However, Shaq’s transfer to another network, as per Bill, is still “probable.”

Although many fans still hold out hope that NBC hasn’t yet secured the rights to the NBA, Simmons thinks it’s a done deal. “One of the funniest things ever is that we’re all pretending the TV deal wasn’t done like a week-and-a-half ago. I think it’s done,” he said. “I don’t know why we’re waiting ’til after the playoffs. Maybe that’s how they have to do it, but it’s a wrap. NBC’s getting it.” Many in the NBA community are hysterical about the possibility of the show ending because “we hate everything. Inside the NBA is one of the few things we really like,” per Simmons.


Article continues below this ad

The journalist talked about Ernie Johnson’s future with TNT as well. He said, “I don’t know if Ernie leaves TNT/Turner at this point,” hilariously adding, “He’s been there since, I think, 1892.” While that latter part may have just been a joke, the first part of Simmons’ statement is something many insiders believe. Some sources said that Inside the NBA’s studio host “would stay with Turner,” while another simply said, “He is Turner Sports. Period.” 

Whatever happens, this will be the end of an era for the Inside the NBA core group of Shaq, Kenny, Barkley, and Ernie. We might not see them together from the 2025-26 season. Although Simmons feels Barkley and Smith are a package deal wherever they go, that’s not so much the case for Shaquille O’Neal. Simmons claimed that Shaq’s contract was necessary to get into a new network. Even O’Neal confirmed that he was not considering going to another network. And after Barkley’s comments, it looks like this will be the end.

In an ESPN interview, Charles Barkley said, “I don’t think there’s a way they can keep us together, to be honest.” Chuck added, “We wouldn’t have anything to talk about. Ernie does golf and things like that, so me, Shaq, and Kenny would be in a really awkward situation. All three of us are financially set. We ain’t worried about the job, to be honest with you. I feel bad for the people I work with.”

As for Shaq’s contract, he’s reportedly earning $10 million every season for his appearance on the TNT show. With about 13 years of game analysis on it, the former NBA MVP is quite “confident” the show will prevail on the TNT network. The former revealed it during his conversation with the Daily Mail. Even so, the lingering question about the uncertainty of NBA rights still haunts fans. They fear losing one of the most elite basketball panels on television.

But Shaq’s ex agent, Leonard Armato doesn’t seem to concerned about this separation, at least for him and Chuck. In an exclusive interview with EssentiallySports, he said that nobody in their right mind would look to separate the dynamic duo if they’re looking to generate a revenue stream.

Shaquille O’Neal & Charles Barkley’s opposing stance on Inside The NBA‘s future


Article continues below this ad

The reality has been quite disturbing for NBA fans as NBC’s parent company, Comcast, is reportedly ahead in the race to get the TV rights with an approximate $2.5 billion annual offer. The current payday for a year from TNT’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, is only $1.2 billion for the media rights. With such a hefty offer, NBC apparently has an upper hand to crack the deal with the league. Yet Shaquille O’Neal seems quite calm and not worried about the probable split with TNT despite such clear indications.

During his interaction with the Daily Mail, Shaq said, “I don’t know [about the show’s future], but hopefully [Warner Bros. Discovery CEO] David Zaslav will take care of business. I’m sure he will. I think we’re in a great spot right now.” But like most everything he and Charles Barkley disagree on, this was one of them, too.

Barkley’s comment on the split hinted that the dissolution of the TNT show was absolute. “I wish I had any damn idea [where we’re going],” he said. But he does have some knowledge as to what’s to become of the future of NBA media rights. “We’re in the bidding war with NBC. They’ve already signed their package with ESPN, they’ve already signed their package with Amazon, and it’s down to one piece of the puzzle between us and NBC. The last we’ve heard was around 2.5 billion, and we have zero idea what’s going to happen.”


Article continues below this ad

via Getty

To back up his point, Barkley also mentioned how it would be sad to leave the show after working with the crew for such a long time. Looking at it from a clear perspective, Shaq seems to be living in a utopian world. Done or not, the official confirmation is yet to be announced. Until then, the community has had the privilege of witnessing their favorite analysts from the game, giving them meaningful insights.