The NBA playoffs themselves aren't the only stars of the postseason. TNT's studio show Inside the NBA continues to be must-see TV for fans of the league and entertainment. Anchored by Ernie Johnson and flanked by Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O'Neal, the show regularly generates headlines with its candid analysis and bold commentary.
Earlier this week, Dwight Howard subbed for Shaq and joined the show, leading to an honest conversation about his image around the league and struggles with the Rockets and Lakers.
With Howard's guest appearance fresh in our minds, we decided to ask SI.com writers who would be their dream Inside the NBA panelists, composed of one host and three guests.
Who's on your dream Inside the NBA show?
Richard Deitsch: Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and a rotating fourth
First, the usual caveat: I consider Inside The NBA the best sports studio show in the history of television. If you kept the current group of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal, you would still have the best sports studio show on television. The best thing Turner Sports has done with Inside is to lock up the talent for years and let Chuck, E.J. and Kenny be Chuck, E.J. and Kenny. I’d make one small tweak: I’d use the Shaq chair to make it a rotation featuring Shaq, Chris Webber, and the person I think would be can’t miss, Kobe Bryant. Oh, I’d also love to see Gregg Popovich do a guest spot at least once. That would be must-see TV.
Ben Golliver: The current four: Ernie, Barkley, Kenny and Shaq
My dream Inside the NBA panel is the current Inside the NBA panel. Now that Shaquille O'Neal has more or less settled into the job, there are no major weak links. Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson are all living legends, and there's no way any other panel would be able to duplicate their chemistry and banter without logging years of airtime together.
So let's take this a different route. I'd like to see Inside add a segment called "Technically Foul" starring NBA referee Ed Malloy, Warriors forward Draymond Green, Grizzlies forward Matt Barnes and Kings center DeMarcus Cousins. The premise would be simple: the hilariously straight-laced Malloy would painstakingly walk the the rest of panel through a nuts-and-bolts discussion of a controversial call from a real game and then the three players would earn points based on how creative and funny they could be during a timed dispute. Profanity would be discouraged, of course, but most everything else would be fair game. In an ideal world, the segment could be both educational, with Malloy playing the role of taskmaster, and humorous, with the players trying to one-up each other and giving fans a taste of on-court disputes. Yes, this does have some major backfire potential. That's kind of the point.
Matt Dollinger: Ernie Johnson, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Barkley
I'm going for pure star power with my dream show. This is easy! It's a shame we no longer get to have Michael Jordan in our day-to-day lives and having him on Inside the NBA would make up for his prolonged absence in the limelight. I'd love to hear his opinion on pretty much anything (basketball or not) and having Kobe Bryant and Charles Barkley next to him should grease the skids for an entertaining conversation. I'm also putting these three guys together because I know their egos would eventually clash, leading to a staggering amount of trash talk about each other and the rest of the league. Ernie is the perfect host to make sure the operation runs smoothly. Ahmad Rashad gets to fill in as host every time he beats Jordan in golf.
Andy Gray: Larry David, Chris Webber, Jalen Rose and Larry Bird
My dream host would be Larry David. Not sure how much he knows about basketball, but I miss seeing him on TV and even if he’s bad, it’d be really good. As for analysts, I’d start with Chris Webber and Jalen Rose. They both are excellent, knowledgeable and great on TV. Furthermore, their dumb feud needs to come to an end already. It’s been going on for two decades and the world wants to see them make up. The last analyst seat would go to Larry Bird. Every time they show him in the stands, I find myself wondering what he’s thinking about the game. He’d be brutally honest and not care about hurting anyone’s feelings. Plus there’s the Larry Bird-Larry David comedy potential. Make it happen, TNT!
DeAntae Prince: J.E. Skeets, Jamal Crawford, Bill Simmons, Jalen Rose
For me, the best show possible would be the right balance of smart basketball people and big personalities. This group checks both boxes. Skeets hosts a fast-paced show filled with hijinks and fun antics. Simmons is an open book who is bound to have a few genuine and memorable moments on television. Crawford explains basketball like a philosopher, and he thinks and lives the game. Rose, forever singing, adds personal stories and comic relief. These high basketball IQs and quirks would come together to make a perfect show. Each member of the panel would balance the man next to him.
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Rohan Nadkarni: Ernie Johnson, Jeff Van Gundy, Chris Webber and Dirk Nowitzki
Inside the NBA is already pretty great as it is (except for Shaq), but if I'm picking a new panel, I have some thoughts. I think you have to keep Ernie Johnson as the host, he's such a professional, and has a proven track record when it comes to dealing with chaos. Flanking EJ, give me Jeff Van Gundy, Chris Webber and Dirk Nowitzki. That's right, I'm retiring Dirk. Van Gundy is brutally honest and brings the coach's perspective. Webber is super enthusiastic, and willing to freak out over offensive fouls. And Dirk replaces Chuck as the guy with an accent. The best part? They're all willing to make fun of themselves. (Looking at you, Shaq.)
Kenny Ducey: Bill Simmons, Kobe, Shaq and Dennis Rodman
This is supposed to be my dream, right? Yeah, I know we're doubling down on Lakers, but that duo would be incredible on TV and there's no way I'm taking Shaq off my panel—he's the most entertaining ex-player I've ever seen. Rodman will be my wild card. Simmons will just laugh the whole time. By no means is this plausible, but it would be appointment viewing. Magic? Boring. MJ? Boring. Isaiah? Boring. Bring me the most colorful personalities available.