For the 33rd straight year, Barkley was in Lake Tahoe for the American Century Championship this week and he was interviewed by CBS Bay Area’s Vern Glenn before the event. During their chat, Glenn asked Barkley to describe what makes TNT’s Inside the NBA so successful.
“We’ve got it down to pretty much fun and basketball,” Barkley said. “You have to reach a happy medium because nobody wants to talk basketball all the time and nobody wants to have fun all the time. You have to try to reach a happy place. And we’ve been at it for a long time, we’ve got great fan support, we’ve got great people who work for us, but I think the key is we just have people who understand nobody wants to talk about basketball for six hours a night, they want to have fun.
“You have two different audiences that you’re trying to relate to. The basketball fans are a small percentage of that, the bigger percentage is trying to get other people to watch, and I think we’ve done a fabulous job of doing that,” Barkley continued. “We have fun at work, it’s only basketball, we’re not saving the world.”
When you think about most of the bits that have caused Inside the NBA to go viral or make headlines, it’s less often for basketball analysis and more often features some sort of hijinks from the crew, with Barkley the most frequent culprit.
This is also the issue when networks attempt to put together studio shows in hopes of replicating what TNT has with Inside the NBA. New shows will always use sports as a crutch. If you put four sports hosts or analysts in a room together, sports is their common ground and sports will always dominate the conversation. Any additional hijinks feel forced and preplanned because usually, it is.
Inside the NBA has been building chemistry with Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Ernie Johnson for more than two decades, with Shaquille O’Neal on board for more than 11 of those years. Turner gives them the freedom to decide when it’s time to talk basketball and when it’s time to veer away from sports. With the rapidly changing landscape of sports media in recent years, it’s hard to imagine a newly formed group of hosts lasting long enough to develop chemistry as unique as Inside the NBA’s.