Long-time Inside The NBA producer Tim Kiely is retiring. Long-time Inside The NBA producer Tim Kiely is retiring.

While Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal all look set to be with TNT’s Inside The NBA for years to come, one of the key figures behind the scenes of the show is moving on. As discussed earlier this month, Inside The NBA producer and Warner Bros Discovery Sports VP (production) Tim Kiely is retiring. Kiely had been producing Inside The NBA since 1995, and many have given him a lot of credit for the show’s on-air lineup (Smith joined in 1998, Barkley in 2000, and O’Neal in 2012), its chemistry, its balance of insight and humor, and more. And Johnson added to that in an on-air sendoff to Kiely after the Miami Heat’s win over the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals Monday, calling him “the best of all time”:

Some key highlights from Johnson’s comments there:

“Man, you know, I can’t even put it into words. We’ve been together for a long, long time. About 27 years together, been through a lot of shows. You’re the best of all time. Nobody in the business has ever done it better. You’ve lived in this ear for a long, long time, and it’s going to be a while before I get that voice out of there.”

Barkley and O’Neal endorsed Johnson’s “best of all time” comment, and Smith then had some notable lines:

“You’ve been the architect of all of this, honestly…the architect of what this is. The first person…I can remember when people used to say ‘Kenny, you should look at the camera,’ and you’re like ‘No, Kenny, you don’t have to if you don’t want to. We’ll find you.’ And I think that attracted this guy [points to Barkley, who responds with “I’ve never been attracted to you”], Ernie and I were doing dialogue and what have you, and I think he was attracted to what you created. I appreciate you; you’ve changed not only what television does, you’ve changed my family and my life and what we’ve done.”

O’Neal then says “And TK, you know what you mean to me. I want to thank you for always staying on me, I appreciate you for allowing all of us to use our humor to make people laugh. People always stop me and say ‘You guys have the best show,’ and every time, I say it’s thanks to guys like you and Jeremy [vice president and coordinating producer Jeremy Levin, also leaving the show, and also recognized on-air recently] and [vice president and coordinating director Steve] Fiorello. We have a great team that people don’t know about. And the other day, me and Kenny went to the [Sports] Emmys, and we didn’t win a lot, but we were nominated for four, and everybody was talking about the show that you created, so I just want to say thank you very much.”

Barkley endorsed those sentiments, adding another shoutout to Levin as well, and then telling Kiely “I just want to say, the worst thing about this is who am I going to go drinking with now? …You’re my drinking buddy. Kenny and Shaq aren’t drinkers, Ernie can’t get out of the house, so I need someone to go drinking with.”

This was a nice sendoff for Kiely. And it’s a deserved one; he played an important role in what Inside The NBA has become, not just in assembling its talent, but also in giving them the freedom to do things unconventionally (as Smith mentioned), and encouraging them to offer authentic criticism of bad games even amidst league pushback. That’s paid dividends, with Inside The NBA winning 17 Sports Emmys over the years so far and even getting its own behind-the-scenes documentary. All of the Inside The NBA on-air figures signed long-term extensions last year, going even beyond the current WBD NBA deal (which expires after 2024-25), so the show’s set to continue in similar fashion for some time, but it will be interesting to see if and how it changes after the exits of veteran behind-the-scenes figures like Kiely and Levin.


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.