Turner’s initial plan for NBA All Star Game coverage was to put Charles Barkley in the booth alongside Reggie Miller and Kevin Harlan.
When that report broke, we wrote how it made sense for Turner to put Barkley in a more visible slot:
In any case, getting Barkley on the game feels like a no-brainer. He was obviously part of hosting coverage in the past, but any time TNT can get Barkley more airtime, they should probably be trying to do that. Certainly during an exhibition contest, on one of the higher-profile dates of the league calendar, having Barkley involved makes a lot of sense.
Turner has gone with a late swerve, though, pivoting to an entirely separate alternate broadcast on TBS featuring the Inside the NBA crew and mic’d up players.
From the Turner press release:
This year’s All-Star experience will also include “Inside the All-Star Game,” innovative all-access coverage on TBS, including the Sports Emmy Award-winning studio team of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith, as they engage and entertain fans throughout the evening. They will be joined by current NBA All-Star Draymond Green and other All-Stars throughout the telecast.
TBS’ all-access NBA All-Star Game presentation will also include NBA All-Stars Stephen Curry, Donovan Mitchell, and Ja Morant among the players, both coaches and referee crew chief wearing mics throughout the entire game, allowing an opportunity to listen in live at any moment during the telecast. Coverage will also include locker room access and other behind-the-scenes capabilities, bringing fans closer to the game than ever before.
The standard TNT broadcast will now feature Dwyane Wade with Miller and Harlan, with Allie LaForce handling sideline duties and guest appearances by players on the NBA’s 75th anniversary team.
Clearly Turner is chasing the ManningCast conversational approach to an alternate feed. Honestly, though, having the entire Inside the NBA crew trying to talk throughout a game feels like a lot. They’re all great, and Inside the NBA is vital television, so there will almost certainly be a few excellent moments of comedy. Getting a current player in Draymond Green involved is also a win. But it feels, well, busy. Having the main feed include not just a three-person booth but also rotating guest appearances also feels like a lot.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with Turner wanting to put their entire roster of talent on one of their biggest NBA nights of the season. That makes all the sense in the world. And usually for three quarters the NBA All Star Game is pretty much just fluff and players trying cool shit anyway, so having a broadcast that won’t necessarily be paying strict attention to the on-court action isn’t the worst idea.
It’s absolutely worth trying. It just feels like Turner had already struck a good balance with the plan to put Barkley on the call, and then decided that alternate feeds are trendy and wanted to get in on that. The consolation is that even if this ends up a trainwreck, with the Inside the NBA group involved, it’s going to at least be an entertaining one.