Inside the NBA Credit: TNT Sports

TNT’s Inside the NBA has become the undisputed leader in NBA coverage and entertainment, largely thanks to the chemistry between Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny “The Jet” Smith, and Ernie Johnson.

While Barkley and O’Neal often grab the headlines, Smith and Johnson are the glue that holds the show together. They provide stability and continuity at a time when many other NBA shows have experienced layoffs and turnover.

Despite ESPN’s best efforts, it has yet to replicate the success of Inside the NBA. The show’s unique blend of insightful analysis, humor, and camaraderie has made it a must-watch for NBA fans everywhere.

ESPN has continuously failed at building an NBA pre- and postgame show that’s come remotely close to Inside the NBA. On the latest episode of the Awful Announcing podcast, Brandon Contes asked former ESPN employee Michelle Beadle why that’s been the case.

“That’s the billion-dollar question, isn’t it?” asked Beadle.

If Beadle was given the chance, could she have created something like that at ESPN had she had more time? 

In the same episode, Beadle opened up about the role that Rachel Nichols and LeBron James played in her NBA Countdown departure, so we know she wasn’t necessarily afforded the opportunity that Warner Bros Discovery has given to host Erine Johnson, among others.

“It’s the gold standard,” she said of TNT’s hit show. “I think if given time with a crew, just keep a crew together for more than a season or two or three at a time, which I don’t even know what the longest-term group has been on that show (NBA Countdown). It doesn’t feel like very much, but it’s a constant rotating cast. That’s really hard to build anything. And now it’s become where the focal point of the show is the rotating case; it’s glaring.”

The constant rotating cast that Beadle referred to at NBA Countdown has gotten yet another facelift. There are literally 37 individuals listed as current or former contributors on the ESPN NBA Countdown wiki, including Beadle, Bill Simmons, Magic Johnson, Michael Wilbon, Tom Tolbert, and Bill Walton. That number is about to grow once again, as Malika Andrews is set to replace Mike Greenberg as host, while former Golden State Warriors GM Bob Myers has joined the cast as an analyst. Additionally, Kendrick Perkins is reportedly a “strong contender” to replace Jalen Rose, who was hit by ESPN’s layoffs at the end of June.

“It’s a bummer because the NBA is a great product,” said Beadle. “ESPN has owned most of it. They have the Finals. They have the good stuff. It should be front and center. Maybe this year they’ll figure it out. I think Malika does a great job. I like her. I know she’s had to deal with a bunch of garbage behind the scenes as well. And so, hopefully, she’s found a nice plateau and can enjoy it. It should be a fun job. Those guys over at TNT, there’s nothing about that that looks forced or strained. They look genuinely like dudes who’d hang out and talk basketball. Candace [Parker] too in there. It’s just, they’ve done it. They’ve nailed it.”

Beadle was asked if she would have any interest in replacing Johnson, as Barkley has dropped subtle hints that the host may be the first member of the show to eventually retire.

“You almost want like a buffer, because he’s the best,” Beadle said of Johnson. “You’re like, let someone else do it, get crushed on social media, and then you want it. It’s hard for me to even—first of all, Ernie is one of the most gracious humans in this business. He doesn’t have to be. You could reach out to him. You could text him. He’ll always reach right back. It’s very refreshing. There are very few like that, that are genuinely decent human beings.

“I don’t ever want him to retire, but obviously at some point, we all have to. Yeah, it’s the dream job. It’s the holy grail. It’s gonna change too. I mean, Charles will step down at some point. Who knows? I don’t know if Draymond [Green] is who they’re gonna bring in at some point. But what they have now, you’d like it to go on forever. And that’s the dream and hope.”

The Awful Announcing Podcast with Brandon Contes is available on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and wherever you get your podcasts.

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.