Charles Barkley on TNT in April 2023. Charles Barkley on TNT in April 2023.

If the NBA on TNT comes to an end and Charles Barkley hits the media free agency pool, ESPN might not be his first choice.

With Warner Bros. Discovery appearing on the verge of losing NBA media rights for TNT, it has fans desperately wanting to know where Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith will land next. The Sports lllustrated Media Podcast with host Jimmy Traina was Barkley’s latest stop on his media tour where he continues to speak candidly about WBD executives seemingly botching negotiations with the NBA. During the interview, Barkley spoke about whethere there’s another company he can foresee himself working for.

Regardless of what happens with the league’s media rights negotiations, Inside the NBA will be on TNT next season. But after that NBC, Amazon and ESPN will be leading candidates for his services.

“I would have to look at their packages,” Barkley told Traina. “I don’t know who’s going to have what so I couldn’t even make an educated guess, even hypothetically. There will be two important questions, what do you have and where you gonna do the show from?”

ESPN can already answer those questions. They regularly let people work remotely with Stephen A. Smith, Shannon Sharpe and Kendrick Perkins rarely appearing in studio for First Take. And all signs are pointing to ESPN/ABC retaining the NBA Finals in their next media deal. But while TNT has limited sports programming, the cast of platforms and shows that ESPN boasts is not appealing to Barkley.

“They’re not gonna work me like a dog,” Barkley insisted. “ESPN Radio, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes. I mean, HELL NO! As much as I love ESPN, I just turned 61. The notion that I’m going to be working like a dog into my mid-60s, that’s definitely not going to happen.”

ESPN hired Shannon Sharpe without parading him around on a cast of shows and platforms, it’s possible they could do the same with Barkley. Although it’s hard to imagine Barkley being an ESPN talent and not appearing on First Take with some regularity.

If Barkley becomes a free agent, he should be a pillar for a platform looking to build their NBA coverage. NBC and Amazon will have an easier time selling that to Barkley, while ESPN will just be looking for their latest shiny toy to show off.

[Sports Illustrated Media Podcast]

About Brandon Contes

Brandon Contes is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously helped carve the sports vertical for Mediaite and spent more than three years with Barrett Sports Media. Send tips/comments/complaints to