Dan Le Batard says outside of Howard Cosell, Charles Barkley is greatest broadcaster in sports history Credit: Pablo Torre Finds Out

NBA free agency doesn’t start for two months, but the league is anxiously awaiting a decision from TNT Sports on the future of its NBA broadcast package and what that will mean for its beloved Inside the NBA studio show and its brightest star, Charles Barkley.

Barkley confirmed this week he would be allowed to leave Warner Bros. Discovery if it loses NBA rights, but anchor Ernie Johnson is unlikely to depart.

Everything remains cloudy, but longtime sports analyst Dan Le Batard believes that if a new network cannot coax Barkley over, they might as well not bother pursuing Inside the NBA at all.

“I mean this as no slight to Ernie Johnson, who’s as good as anybody at what we do, Kenny Smith, or Shaq. But if Barkley leaves, that show’s over,” Le Batard said in an episode of Pablo Torre Finds Out released Friday.

Barkley signed an extension with WBD two years ago, but it includes an opt-out.

More than anyone else at the network, Barkley is synonymous with the show and with the league. He is perhaps its greatest ambassador for the game of basketball outside active star players, despite retiring nearly 30 years ago.

“All of those people (on Inside the NBA) are really important, but there is one star,” Le Batard said. “One person who is not like any person who’s ever been before him, and he sits at the center of that.”

Given that Amazon is one of the new NBA broadcasters, money should be no obstacle for Barkley. But if he decides it’s not worth moving without his co-stars or that he simply is ready to retire, it would be a seismic change in basketball, beyond just the broadcasting world.

[Pablo Torre Finds Out on YouTube]

About Brendon Kleen

Brendon is a Media Commentary staff writer at Awful Announcing. He has also covered basketball and sports business at Front Office Sports, SB Nation, Uproxx and more.