The NBA on TNT may have officially went on summer vacation Monday night after the Miami Heat finished off the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal aren’t done just yet.
Although the NBA Finals are aired by ESPN on ABC, NBA TV offers its own pre and postgame coverage. That’s slated to feature rotating contributions from Barkley, O’Neal and Smith this season. NBA TV is owned by the NBA, but operated by TNT’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery Sports, which explains why they’re able to pluck Barkley, O’Neal and Smith for their Finals coverage.
But if you were watching pre and postgame coverage of the Heat-Celtics game Monday night, it very much seemed like someone forgot to tell Barkley he still has some media responsibilities to fulfill during the NBA Finals. During Inside the NBA’s show open, Ernie Johnson noted it was the crew’s last night together, prompting Barkley to say, “Thank goodness.”
“I like summer vacation,” Barkley added. “I love basketball, but I love summer vacation more. I ain’t gonna get on here and lie!”
When asked whether he likes Game 7 or summer vacation more, Barkley said, “Summer vacation,” without hesitation. “I love you guys, see you in October,” Barkley added. “That’s the two sweetest words – three words – ‘see you in Oct…’ that’s four actually.”
But according to NBA TV host Jared Greenberg, it’s not quite summer vacation for Barkley just yet. As Barkley was on TNT boasting about his looming summer vacation, Greenberg tweeted to remind Chuck, Shaq and Kenny Smith that they’ll be joining him on NBA TV for their Finals coverage before and after every game between the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat.
— Jared Greenberg (@JaredSGreenberg) May 29, 2023
— Jared Greenberg (@JaredSGreenberg) May 30, 2023
In the past, Barkley, O’Neal and Smith have contributed to NBA TV’s Finals coverage in some capacity and that will continue this year. The popular analysts are expected to split the series, and will join NBA TV’s crew remotely during their scheduled games.
Considering the stark difference in popularity between ESPN and TNT’s NBA coverage, any semblance of Barkley, O’Neal and Smith during the Finals is a big deal. ESPN will boast Mike Greenberg as its studio host during the NBA Finals, alongside analysts Stephen A. Smith, Jalen Rose, Michael Wilbon and insider Adrian Wojnarowski.
ESPN’s offering might provide adequate basketball analysis, but they lack the entertainment value brought by Barkley, O’Neal and Smith. And considering the rate of which Barkley and O’Neal go viral for their hijinks, casual sports fans seem to prioritize entertainment value over analysis.