Former NBA player and current TNT television personality Charles Barkley prior to game one of the Eastern Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs between the Atlanta Hawks and the Cleveland Cavaliers at Philips Arena. Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

As soon as Charles Barkley made his shocking announcement that the next NBA season would be his last as a broadcaster for TNT Sports or otherwise, people were doubting whether or not that would come to pass.

The more time has passed, the more assured everyone seems to be that Barkley isn’t going anywhere, at least when it comes to talking into a microphone.

Speculation about Barkley’s broadcasting future kicked in almost as soon as it became clear that Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns TNT, wasn’t likely to retain NBA media rights beyond the 2024-2025 season (even though that remains unclear). Considering the former NBA star would have arguably been the biggest sports media free agent in recent memory, it’s no surprise that he found himself in the middle of constant speculation. Of course, Sir Charles also made himself very available to keep that speculation cycle moving, including bashing his bosses over their lack of communication.

While the tributes poured in following Barkley’s shock announcement, TNT Sports’ statement the following day implied that the Hall of Famer was still potentially open to returning. And while a handful of sports media folks did believe that Barkley was being truthful, most people in the sports media seem to think there’s gotta be more to this than that.

That conversation should probably start with Jon Lewis’s post at Sports Media Watch that details the many times that Barkley has threatened to retire and didn’t follow through in his broadcasting career. It’s easy to look at the aggregation of all those instances and see retirement as a tool in Barkley’s toolbelt for getting what he wants.

The Athletic’s Andrew Marchand wrote over the weekend that while Barkley arguably has the “greatest combination of a professional playing and broadcasting career in the history of American sports,” his story doesn’t seem done just yet. He says that if WBD can figure out a way to keep NBA rights, thereby keeping Inside the NBA alive, they could probably persuade him to return. He also thinks ESPN could make an offer “refusing to let Barkley say no.”

The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch also wrote about Barkley on Wednesday, making the argument that Barkley “loves this too much to retire.” He also cited quite a few people in the industry who agree.

“No one I spoke to in sports broadcasting over the weekend, including people who are close to Barkley, believed he would actually retire,” wrote Deitsch. “One cited his enjoying the spotlight too much. Another said they believed he’d change his mind when someone made it clear how much they wanted him. I spoke to one sports television executive who hires NBA talent who said people who have been in the public spotlight as long as Barkley do not easily give that up. The executive believed Barkley would change his mind. There are also people at WBD who believe something can be worked out with Barkley with or without NBA media rights.”

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith doesn’t believe Barkley’s going to hang his microphone up, noting “I’m not saying he’s lying. I’m saying, don’t believe he’s gone for good.” Smith thinks the NBA icon might be angling to redevelop Inside the NBA or a different version under his own production company.

SI’s Jimmy Traina, who interviewed Barkley recently and noted how the Inside the NBA host said at the time it would be silly to make plans while the NBA rights remained in limbo, also seems to think there’s probably an ulterior motive here. He wrote that Sir Charles making that announcement out of frustration or doing so as a negotiating tactic both seem “more likely than Barkley actually retiring after the 2024–25 season.”

Front Office Sports’ Michael McCarthy also believes that the retirement announcement could be a “last-ditch power play,” using this announcement as a way to try and keep TNT Sports in the NBA business. McCarthy posits that while Barkley isn’t loyal to WBD, he is loyal to his Inside the NBA castmates and crew and would do whatever he could to keep the show alive.

It’s hard to get a room full of reporters and media members to agree on most topics. The fact that so many people who cover sports media for a living seem convinced that there’s more to Charles Barkley’s retirement announcement says it all. The only person who isn’t saying it all, it seems, is Barkley.

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to