via Getty

The Steam Room has had four finales in the past but none have been heavier than season 5. With their “Everybody Has A Story” episode, Charles Barkley and Ernie Johnson called it a wrap on their fifth finale this week with uncertainty looming in TNT’s corridors—whether the podcast is to return at all, and if and when it does, whether Chuck will still be part of the iconic duo.

Chuck and Ernie are aware of the questions. But for now, they made the most of the time they had with the entire crew and let them know how much of a privilege it was to work with them. Getting into the episode, the two remained optimistic about returning for season 6 of the show; even predicting their first line of the new chapter.

Ernie Johnson said, “I am sure the first season of season 6 will start the same way the last one of season 5 begins, ‘first of all.'” It was only after completing conversations with ‘two of their favorite people,’ Chuck D & Steve Hartman, that the two felt the emotions. “I’m going to miss that,” Ernie stated as the show’s theme song, played in their voices, marking the nearing end of the episode.


Article continues below this ad

The former NBA star joined the train to confirm that he and Ernie will be working together for about three more weeks as Inside the NBA will cover the conference finals leading into the NBA Finals. But he doesn’t know if he’ll see the Steam Room team again, a team he has been a part of since 2019, which made him express, “I’m gonna miss the crew.”

The Inside Guys will hit the road soon though where they’re heading depends on who wins the current series. But when Ernie said “We don’t know where we’re exactly going yet,” it hits hard.

While it will be officially confirmed after the playoffs, rumors are rife that NBC has already won the NBA media rights. The broadcasting giant, NBC, is expected to stand on the receiving end of the NBA favor, thanks to its $2.1 billion bid and successful track record of streaming records and sports-related investments. If it is to be true, the new contract will go into effect after 2025, which could make the next season the last.

Chuck, along with Shaquille O’Neal, has been open about the uncertain future and their own mixed feelings. Earlier in 2022, the entire Inside the NBA crew signed a contract extension, but Chuck added a clause in the deal, that would make him a free agent if TNT lost its NBA rights. Barkley said, “I want to make it clear; I love TNT. I love everybody at TNT, and they’ve been great for me. But I don’t want to be in limbo if we lose the NBA. That wouldn’t be fair to me.”

This will likely impact the duo’s presence on The Steam Room for the next season, considering Barkley stands a chance to leave TNT if the NBA rights transfer. Yet Chuck had a heartfelt “tribute to the crew” as Ernie put it.

Charles Barkley’s possible final words for the TNT crew


Article continues below this ad

Barkley started off the tribute with a shout-out to longtime Inside the NBA and Steam Room producers. “They’re so selfish,” he said. Very touching words, Chuck. They want the finals in Denver or Dallas for the ease of flying, which is why Barkley is annoyed with them on the season finale. Nothing against Oklahoma City or Minnesota but they’re just a little out of the way for the Atlanta-based crew.

Nowhere near as driven as Chuck who’s a permanent resident of Arizona but has traveled between New York and Atlanta this season along with handling TNT business in Las Vegas and Indianapolis. “See how soft Alex and Underdog are,” Barkley spat because who knows if he can give them a hard time again shortly.

Together on Inside the NBA for over 20 years, Ernie and Charles have nurtured an undeniable chemistry. And on The Steam Room, they have brought it along to dive into candid conversations and unfiltered thoughts within and beyond the basketball realm. However, with TNT’s battle for NBA rights, the episode might be the last of the duo.


Article continues below this ad

Chuck has been implying he’d probably retire rather than do another show without the usual quartet. But if he were to continue in the industry, the opt-out clause in his contract allows him to join the rivals based on bidding. Meanwhile, reports indicate that Ernie, who still has other commitments at Turner besides basketball, will continue with TNT.

It’s still unclear what the future holds. But clearly, Chuck would’ve tolerated the old crew if he has the chance.