Charles Barkley Inside the NBA Screen grab: ‘Inside the NBA’

The ongoing negotiations for the NBA’s next media rights deal has left the league’s future on TNT in question — if not in doubt.

And that leads to some obvious questions about the future of not only Inside the NBA, but its talent.

Appearing on ESPN Cleveland’s The Really Big Show on Wednesday, Charles Barkley was asked about his employer’s uncertain future when it comes to the NBA. And in doing so, the Hall of Fame power forward revealed that he has the ability to get out of his deal and would be willing to do so should TNT not get a part of the league’s next media rights package.

“I covered my ass to be honest with you,” Barkley said. “I just signed a 10-year deal two years ago, but one of the things I did was I put an opt-out in a couple years because I wanted to cover my ass when it comes to this situation.”

Barkley revealed that he anticipated that TNT could lose its NBA rights over the course of his 10-year deal, although he and his colleagues thought it would be Apple taking their place. With Disney expected to maintain the league’s top package and Amazon having already reportedly agreed to a deal for select regular-season and postseason games, TNT remains in play to remain a part of the next rights deal, but could very well be outbid by NBC as the network attempts to bring the NBA back to its airwaves.

But regardless of what the NBA’s next rights deal looks like, Barkley maintains he has the ability to leave for a competitor if TNT isn’t a part of it. And while he didn’t say so explicitly, it might be a safe bet the same is true for his Inside the NBA co-hosts, as the show’s cast signed their new contract extensions in unison in 2022.

“I said, ‘If you guys lose the NBA, I want to make sure I can get out of here.’ So I am actually in a really great position,” Barkley said. “We knew it was going to be Amazon and Apple, but we didn’t know NBC was going to come out of the woodwork. But the one thing I particularly did in my contract, I put an opt-out clause in there. Listen, I love TNT, they’ve been great to me… I wanted to make sure that if we lost the NBA in two years, I could be a free agent.”

Asked by host Tony Rizzo if he would be willing to make a move to another network if such a change comes to fruition, Barkley replied: “Hell yeah.”


It’s unclear at what point Barkley will become eligible for his opt-out, but presumably, it’s tied to the expiration of the current NBA media rights deal following the 2024-25 NBA season. That means that we can expect to see “the Mound Round of Rebound” — and the rest of the Inside the NBA crew — on TNT airwaves for at least one more year.

But after that, all bets are off, with possibility of sports’ preeminent studio show landing elsewhere seemingly in play.

[ESPN Cleveland]

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.