Stephen A. Smith on The Stephen A. Smith Show Photo credit: The Stephen A. Smith Show

Stephen A. Smith might not speak for all Knicks fans, but he speaks for all basketball fans in saying nothing should break up Inside the NBA.

With reports that the NBA is finalizing media rights deals with Disney, NBC and Amazon, it seems like the league’s long relationship with Warner Bros. Discovery’s TNT is heading for a breakup. Further, the league’s new media rights deals might mark the end of Charles Barkley, Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal as a quartet.

On the latest episode of The Stephen A. Smith Show, Smith reacted to the latest news surrounding the league’s media rights negotiations and preached the importance of keeping Inside the NBA together.

“To see the phenomenal work that they’ve done over the years, how they’ve entertained the NBA world – all I’m going to say is this, I don’t know everything in life, but I know television,” Smith said. “And I know that I don’t give a damn what network you are. If you have an opportunity to have Charles Barkley Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith together, you do not break that up. I don’t give a s**t what anybody says, you keep that together, you don’t mess with it at all. Ever. They’re gonna have Sunday Night Basketball? Let them be your Sunday Night Basketball.”

Smith added that Ernie Johnson earned the right to decide whether he wants to finish out his career on TNT or follow Barkley, Shaq and Kenny to another network.

“We hope the whole TNT team stays together no matter who it’s for,” Smith continued. “Them, NBC or whoever. Because I’m not gonna lie to you, I’ve been covering the NBA for 30 years, not seeing those brothers together, it wouldn’t be the same.”

It’s interesting to hear Smith sing the praises of Inside the NBA while he’s featured on NBA Countdown for ESPN. But according to Smith, he doesn’t view Inside the NBA as competition because the shows air at different times and their networks are different.

“ESPN’s a sports news network. TNT and their show, straight up entertainment,” Smith explained. “When you don’t see us on the air, you see SportsCenter. When you don’t see them on the air, you see Law & Order.”

NBA Countdown has dabbled in trying to be entertainment, as proven by some of the antics with Smith and his Knicks fandom during their playoff series with the Indiana Pacers. Smith might not consider them competitors, but NBA Countdown does get compared to the standard that Inside the NBA set. Still, even Smith recognizes Inside the NBA can’t be replicated.

But how will Smith feel if TNT loses the NBA and ESPN seeks to keep Barkley, Shaq and Kenny together? The one thing they can’t do if that were to happen is force-feed Stephen A. Smith into the show. Because like Smith said, “don’t mess with [Inside the NBA] at all. Ever.”

[The Stephen A. Smith Show]

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