13 minutes before the Suns and Mavericks tipped off their Game 7 of the NBA Playoffs Sunday night, Dallas star Luka Dončić stood on the court and donned a headset for an interview with Turner’s Inside the NBA.
That was a seemingly harmless 60 seconds that was carved out for one of the league’s biggest TV partners. But once it was over, TNT analysts Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal ripped the idea of a player conducting an interview so close to an important game.
“There’s no way in hell I would’ve did an interview before this game. Ain’t no way,” Barkley ranted. “I love that kid, but there ain’t no way I’m doing an interview before the game. I don’t care if it’s my momma, my daddy, or anybody out there. HELL NO!”
Shaq and Chuck weren't fans of Luka's media availability pic.twitter.com/Ir0q1aLKGl
— Brandon Contes (@BrandonContes) May 16, 2022
“Yeah, I was just gonna say that. I agree,” O’Neal chimed in while imagining a scenario where the Mavericks lose and Dončić blames it on lack of concentration after “talking to the guys on TNT.”
O’Neal and Barkley absolutely loathed the idea of giving a 60-second interview just 13 minutes before an important matchup. Meanwhile, ESPN has MLB players mic’d up on the field for interviews during the game. Pro athletes from past generations might scoff at modern media obligations, but pleasing TV partners is part of why player salaries continue to skyrocket.
“Hey, he could’ve easily said ‘No, I don’t want to do that,’” Inside the NBA host Ernie Johnson said of Dončić , making it clear the Mavericks superstar wasn’t forced into the interview by a TV contract.
Dončić proved his ability to adapt to situations that even hall-of-famers like Shaq and Barkley couldn’t imagine being put in, scoring a game-high 35 points (27 in the first half) and leading the Mavericks to a 123-90 Game 7 victory over the Phoenix Suns despite the strenuous 60-second interview. And Dončić didn’t just help the Mavericks win, they embarrassed the Suns, who offered one of the worst single game performances by a one seed in NBA Playoff history.