Charles Barkley on NBA TV Negotiations: TNT 'Screwed This Thing Up'

Barkley takes aim at Warner Brothers Discovery management over the NBA rights mess.
"Morale sucks, plain and simple," Barkley said of the uncertainty surrounding the future of 'Inside the NBA' on TNT.
"Morale sucks, plain and simple," Barkley said of the uncertainty surrounding the future of 'Inside the NBA' on TNT. / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

1. With the chances of TNT (Warner Brothers Discovery) keeping the NBA in the current round of television negotiations looking more and more bleak each day, Charles Barkley took direct aim at WBD management on Thursday’s Dan Patrick Show.

Responding to a question about morale at TNT, Barkley said, “Morale sucks, plain and simple.” Barkley continued, “I just feel so bad for the people I work with. These people have families. I just really feel bad for them right now. These people I work with, they screwed this thing up, clearly. We don’t have zero idea what’s gonna happen. I don’t feel good. I’m not gonna lie. Especially when they came out [Wednesday] and said they bought college football. I was like, ‘Damn, well they could’ve used that money to buy the NBA.’”

Patrick asked Barkley about the idea of him, Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal starting their own production company and then selling Inside the NBA to NBC or Amazon, who are both expected to get a package in the upcoming television deals.

“Well, I’ve talked to the guys about everybody signing with my production company because I have my own production company,” said Barkley. “I’d love to do that if we lose it.”

However, Barkley and the crew remain in limbo since nothing is official yet with the new TV deals.

“We’re just sitting back waiting on these people to figure out what they’re gonna do. My two favorite wines are Inglenook and Opus and these clowns I work for, they’ve turned us into Ripple and Boone’s Farm and Thunderbird. We just won best studio show, but these fools turned us from Inglenook and Opus into damn Boone’s Farm and Ripple. It’s crazy.”

Patrick then said Barkley seemed angry about the entire saga.

“I am,” admitted Barkley. “I’ve been spending so much time with the crew lately. They bring their newborns in. They bring their kids in. They come in when they’re in high school and now they’re graduating from high school. Ernie’s been there 32 years. Kenny’s been there 27. I’ve been there 24. But think about that. Some of these people I work with brought their newborns to say hello to us, then brought them in in high school when they graduated and now they graduated college. So, yeah, I’m angry. They’re part of my family and I feel bad for those guys.”

When Patrick asked Barkley how TNT managed to mess up its relationship with the NBA, Barkley cited comments made by new CEO of WBD, David Zaslav, who said during an RBC investor conference call in 2022, “We don’t have to have the NBA.”

“I think the first thing is, they came out and said we didn’t need the NBA,” said Barkley. “So I think that probably pissed [commissioner] Adam [Silver] off. I don’t know that, but when we merged, that’s the first thing our boss said. ‘We don’t need the NBA.’ Well, he don’t need it, but the rest of the people, me, Kenny, Ernie, Shaq and the rest of the people who work there, we need it.

“It just sucks right now.”

This is what I wrote in yesterday’s Traina Thoughts:

“TNT and Inside the NBA will still be around for the 2024–25 season. While the thought of losing the iconic studio show featuring Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal is hard to take, the thought of a Charles Barkley with even less you-know-what to gives on television next season would be electric.”

After hearing Barkley on Dan Patrick’s show, I need a word that is a million times stronger than “electric” for that sentence.

2. Barkley wasn’t just fired up this morning. On Wednesday night he unleashed a rant against people who have been bashing Caitlin Clark.

He followed up his Clark monologue with a joke about the future of Inside the NBA.

3. I have even more NBA/TNT for you, because the guest on a brand-new SI Media With Jimmy Traina podcast is the network’s lead NBA play-by-play voice, Kevin Harlan.

Harlan shares his thoughts on the possibility of Turner Sports losing the NBA and what that means for his future.

He also talks about calling the Mavericks-Timberwolves Western Conference Finals, the transition from being in a two-person booth to a three-person booth for the postseason and why a three-person one is more difficult for the NBA than college basketball.

Other topics covered with Harlan include his viral playoff moment with Denver's Jamal Murray, how he evaluates his radio call of Mecole Hardman's Super Bowl–winning touchdown against the Niners, whether any executives have ever tried to change his style, the notes his gets about his NFL broadcasts from CBS and much more.

Following Harlan, Sal Licata from WFAN and SNY joins me for our weekly "Traina Thoughts" segment. This week's topics include my betting disaster regarding Caitlin Clark, Peacock's new series on the 1990 New York Yankees, the scam that is the secondary-ticket market, the use of the word "legend" and another ridiculous restaurant experience I had last week.

You can also listen to SI Media With Jimmy Traina below or on Apple and Spotify.

You can also watch SI Media With Jimmy Traina on Sports Illustrated‘s YouTube channel.

4. I know people like to dump on older broadcasters when they drop takes like this, but I agree with every single word Michael Wilbon said here about baseball and the ridiculous stats that are prevalent today.

5. Draymond Green recently called out Stephen A. Smith because Smith gave honest assessments of Green’s behavior, with Green trying to say Draymond the basketball player isn’t the same as Draymond the person, as if that means it’s O.K. to act ridiculous during games.

Naturally, Smith fired back against Green at Thursday's First Take.

6. Speaking of First Take, I had said during last week’s SI Media Podcast with NFL VP of broadcast planning, Mike North, that I would’ve preferred the Christmas Day games start at 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. as opposed to 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Chris “Mad Dog” Russo agrees with me, but he was just a little more fired up about it.

7. RANDOM VIDEO OF THE DAY: It was 20 years ago today that The Sopranos aired one of its most memorable and gut-wrenching episodes: Long Term Parking. RIP, Adriana.

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

Jimmy Traina


Jimmy Traina is a media writer and podcast host for Sports Illustrated. A 20-year veteran, he’s been covering the media industry for seven years and writes a weekly column at SI, Traina Thoughts. Jimmy has hosted the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast since 2018, a show known for interviews with some of the most important and powerful people in sports media. He also was the creator and writer for SI’s Hot Clicks feature from 2007 to 2013.