Ernie Johnson on The South Beach Sessions

There have seemingly been two narratives that have followed the NBA through its most recent road to the Finals. One is that the coverage around the Denver Nuggets has been severely lacking and frustrating. Two, TNT’s Inside the NBA show has solidified its place at the very top of the mountain when it comes to NBA coverage and entertainment value.

While Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal often get the bulk of the praise in that department, host Ernie Johnson is the glue that holds the entire operation together. Though he’ll be the first person to tell you that their success is very much a team effort.

Johnson was Dan Le Batard’s guest on the most recent edition of The South Beach Sessions, and he shared his own insight on what makes the show work so well. Naturally, it’s the connection and trust between the four hosts, all of whom know exactly what they need to do.

“Nobody tries to make themselves the show,” Johnson told Le Batard. “They’ve never tried to make the show about themselves. I’m in the fortunate position of getting us from point A to point B to point C with three guys who have been in every conceivable situation in a basketball game.

“So nobody cares at home what I think about what might be being said in the huddle with 1.7 seconds to go. They want to hear from the guys who have been there. So it’s up to me to try to bring out the best in these three guys. Knowing your role is vital. If you try to stray outside your lane and be something you aren’t, then it doesn’t work. The fact that we don’t rehearse and the fact that we just let’r rip – there you go.”

When Le Batard said that he’s heard Shaq, Barkley, and Kenny Smith talk about Johnson in a way that makes it seem like they would do anything for him, he agreed with that sentiment.

“And I would do the same for them. We all would,” said Johnson. “That’s what comes with years of being together.

“We love each other. Truly. I grew up with two older sisters and this is as close as I’ll ever come to having brothers. And that’s what they are to me.”

Johnson added that the Inside the NBA show following Kobe Bryant’s passing included a special moment that really crystallized the connection the four of them have together.

“I remember Shaq on that night saying on the air that, ‘I don’t say this enough to you guys, but I love you.’ And we do. I think one thing that whole moment of time taught all of us was that you don’t know how long you have,” Johnson said. “It behooves us to make sure that everything’s cool between us. Not just between the four of us on the show, but between everybody in your life. That if the unthinkable happens, do you want to leave that with, ‘Man I wish I had said this. I wish that silly feud, I could have stepped up and defused it. I wish I could have said this.’ And I think it was a pretty brutal reminder of that.”

The whole podcast is worth a listen as Johnson talks about the experiences that helped him understand what’s important in his career as well as his late adopted son Michael, who passed away at age 33 in 2021.

[The South Beach Sessions, image courtesy of The South Beach Sessions]

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