David Dow/Getty Images
By Jimmy Traina
April 18, 2019

Will Charles Barkley's repeated invites for LeBron James to join him, along with Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal and Kenny Smith, on TNT's Inside the NBA finally pay off? Barkley has begged James to take a seat on the set for an evening of playoff basketball and LeBron has said he would consider it. That's how powerful Barkley is these days as the NBA postseason takes centerstage.

Between his star power and his unfiltered opinions on everything from basketball to the women of San Antonio to NBA TV being the place to stash the unpopular teams, Barkley moves the needle like few in sports television. Is he the most valuable person on sports TV? SI Media Podcast host Jimmy Traina discussed this on the latest episode with Washington Post sports media reporter, Ben Strauss.

Listen to Ben Strauss on the SI Media podcast here and subscribe to the podcast on iTunesSpotify or Google Play.​​​​ The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Jimmy Traina: I think the best media story right now is the Charles Barkley repeatedly inviting LeBron James to do Inside the NBA one night and LeBron basically gave us a little tease on Monday by tweeting that he would consider it. … I think it would be phenomenal to get LeBron on there, considering Charles has not always been so nice to LeBron.

Ben Strauss: I do not have a counter take to that. I agree 100 percent. I don't see how anybody in the world who's ever watched sports television could disagree with that. LeBron is so good when he wants to be. Barkley might be the most valuable sports media TV personality in sports. And it would be great TV. It would be must watch.

JT: Tell me if you agree or disagree. I feel like Charles can do whatever he wants, outside of maybe saying something just completely off the rails. … Charles can do whatever he wants and the result pays off because this show is phenomenal. It's amazing to me that more networks don't give their talent that leeway. He's out there saying wild stuff every night. It's hysterical. And people love it. You think other networks would pick up on it and not really try to reign people in, but everything out there is a lot of cookie-cutter stuff. This is not and that's why it's successful.

BS: Barkley, it wasn't on TNT, but he went on a radio show and said he can beat any woman in any sport. Like within the last few weeks. During the NCAA Tournament, I think. And somebody said to me, “If that had been anybody else, people would've been calling for a suspension." But not Barkley. It’s the same in politics. There's like a level of authenticity — if people think they're getting authenticity — the leash that people will give you, the space to sort of say outlandish things is is immense. And Barkley takes advantage of it and and sort of delivers that authenticity better than anybody.

JT: It's amazing more networks don't understand that and let their people…

BS: I think it's hard, though. It's not that easy as the talent to be able to get away with it.

JT: You're right. The talent has to want it. The talent has to be prepared that they're going to take some heat if they say something crazy. But I think that's a benefit of Charles not being on Twitter. He doesn't have to deal with it. If Charles was on Twitter he probably wouldn't say the stuff he said.

BS: That's true every time I go to send a tweet I'm like terrified it's a bad tweet.

JT: Well Charles just doesn't care either. That's a big factor in it as well. 

BS: Right. I wonder how many people I don't care that much. It's like this double-edged sword. In order to be that authentic you have to not care.

Be sure to catch up on past editions of Traina Thoughts and check out the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast hosted by Jimmy Traina on iTunes, Spotify or Google Play. You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter and Instagram.

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