Charles Barkley criticizing the NCAA to Adam Silver. Charles Barkley criticizing the NCAA to Adam Silver. (Awful Announcing on Twitter.)

TNT Sports’ pregame show ahead of the NBA All-Star Game Sunday took quite an unexpected turn into discussion of NCAA basketball. There, analyst Charles Barkley (who works on the joint CBS/Warner Bros’ Discovery March Madness coverage as well as WBD’s NBA coverage) went off on NCAA leadership and what he sees as an “always reactive” approach to issues like name, image, and likeness. He did that mid-interview with NBA commissioner Adam Silver, and suggested that Silver and the NBA should “do something”:

Here’s Barkley’s question:

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, to be honest, with G League and things like that. We screwed up college sports with the NIL thing. What can we do, the NBA, to get together with the colleges? Because it is the wild, wild west on steroids, literally between you’ve got college coaches leaving to take assistant jobs in the NFL and things like that because they don’t want to have to pay all these college players.

“We’re going to have to do something. Can you get together with the NCAA. Because, number one, the NCAA, they’re boneheads. You know, the reason I call them boneheads, they’re always reactive. And once you react to something, it’s already out of control. So what do you think we’re going to be able to do between the NIL and the G League?”

Silver responds by discussing new NCAA president Charlie Baker and says “He was brought in to truly be a leader, not to be reactive.” He says he’s met with Baker several times, and discusses Baker’s attempts to push for national NIL regulation, then talks about the importance of NCAA basketball to the NBA.

“We’re dependent, for the domestic U.S. players, without a great development system…you guys didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, you all came up through incredible systems that developed you into NBA players. We’re seeing that internationally, I think there’s a reason why you’re seeing so many top-notch players come into the league now, so skilled. So it’s not just the college level, but we’ve got to address youth basketball in this country; there’s a whole big ecosystem that we have to fix.”

That’s a very diplomatic response from Silver, especially to a question where Barkley called the NCAA “boneheads” and said the NBA should get directly involved. It’s unclear what that involvement would actually look like, and Silver certainly doesn’t commit to anything here. But he does talk about the importance of working with NCAA and youth basketball leadership to “fix” this ecosystem, and it will be interesting to see what steps, if any, the NBA takes there.

But the most notable thing here may be the ferventness of Barkley’s language, especially with “boneheads.” Yes, Sir Charles is known for saying what he thinks. Yes, that sometimes is in strong terms. And yes, he’s criticized the NCAA before around NIL, including with “a travesty and a disgrace” on 60 Minutes last March. But it’s remarkable to have one of the faces of March Madness TV coverage calling the organization that runs it “boneheads.”

[Awful Announcing on Twitter]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.