In what’s been a lackluster NBA Playoffs loaded with blowouts, some of the postseason’s best battles have occurred courtesy of Inside the NBA.
Last week, we had the great race between Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith and this week, Inside the NBA gave fans the great debate between Chuck and Shaquille O’Neal. During an argument surrounding the potential return of Marcus Smart to the Boston Celtics, Barkley claimed his defensive presence will have a big impact, while O’Neal believed a great offensive player can never be stopped.
“Hold on, you said last week, don’t brag you’re a great player if someone can shut you down,” O’Neal said. “Marcus Smart ain’t shutting Jimmy Butler down. If Jimmy Butler wants to get 40, he gonna get 40, he’s that type of player now.”
SHAQ & CHUCK GOT HEATED ? #NBAonTNT pic.twitter.com/ZqxId4U0Tp
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 19, 2022
“We all like Jimmy Butler,” Barkley responded. “I’m not contradicting myself. This is a totally different animal. It’s harder to score on the Defensive Player of the Year fool!”
“No, it’s not,” O’Neal fired back in front of the live audience. “You better look at my finals against Dikembe Mutombo. No, it ain’t. It’s not. Jimmy Butler’s a great player. If he wants to get 40, he’ll get 40. I don’t want to hear nothing about Defensive Player of the Year. I don’t even want to hear it.”
Oh no. Poor Dikembe Mutombo. The hall-of-famer didn’t deserve that type of abuse, minding his own business and getting forced to relive the 33 and 16 O’Neal averaged over him during the 2001 NBA Finals.
But this is why Inside the NBA is the best studio show in sports, and one that ESPN has failed to replicate through its countless attempts at retooling Countdown. The chemistry of O’Neal, Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson is unmatched. And the authenticity of that crew is even harder to find on sports TV shows throughout the medium.
What you watched from Barkley and O’Neal was a sincere disagreement from two former players who aren’t afraid to call anyone out and never hesitate to offer bold takes. There’s a big difference between bold takes and the hot takes that sports media is desecrated with.
This is why Patrick Beverley was received so well on ESPN this week, or at least the first couple days of this week, as some of us are now suffering from Pat Bev fatigue. Despite ESPN’s decision to use Beverley on every studio show for three straight days, he kicked off the week with a bang and went viral for his authenticity, because Beverley vs JJ Redick on First Take was real.
This is what sports television is supposed to be. Genuine debate, not prefabricated topics with hot takes designed to spark inauthentic outrage.