Kevin Harlan Addresses His Future If TNT Loses NBA

Lead play-by-play voice, Kevin Harlan, says the NBA has "very special place in my heart."
Harlan, who has been with Turner since 1996, also works for CBS doing NFL and college basketball.
Harlan, who has been with Turner since 1996, also works for CBS doing NFL and college basketball. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

1. With reports swirling now for weeks that TNT will be squeezed out of the new NBA television deals, a lot of the focus has been on the potential end of Inside the NBA featuring Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal.

Barkley made his feelings on how TNT’s parent company, Warner Brothers Discovery, has handled its relationship with the NBA very clear during an interview with Dan Patrick on Thursday.

In addition to Inside the NBA, the future of TNT’s lead play-by-play man, Kevin Harlan, would also be up in the air if WBD loses the NBA.

Harlan, who currently works for CBS on the NFL and college basketball, would surely be a target for the NBA’s new expected partners, NBC and Amazon.

During an interview this week on the latest episode of SI Media With Jimmy Traina, Harlan spoke about the possibility of TNT losing the NBA and addressed his own situation.

“I've been with Turner for 28 years,” said Harlan. “I started in 1996. We've had a lot of different ownership changes, but we've had the NBA that whole time. Turner runs Turner Broadcasting also controls NBA TV. There's a lot of investment that company has made in the NBA. They've had it since the mid-80s as a network, so clearly there's a lot on the line here.

“There's nothing I can do and so I guess my immediate feeling is that I want to do the best job I can possibly do right now. I control the things I can control and that's my performance and doing the best I can do for these next however many games we've got left in this in this series."

Harlan continued, “The NBA was my first job out of college. The day I graduated, I got a call from the Kansas City Kings to be the radio voice and TV voice when I was 21. So, that was my first job, the NBA.

“I've grown to love it. I admire it more than I can even put into words. It's been a part of the fabric of my family. But, if the worst would happen and they would leave and go someplace else and there wouldn't be an opportunity for me down the road, I would leave grateful beyond measure that I've been lucky enough to do these games all these years.”

Harlan added, “I've been blessed in so many ways and one of them is to be a part of this league and a part of Turner. As with everything in my life, I trust God and what happens happens, but do the best job that I can that's in front of me that day.”

Harlan currently works for CBS and Turner. Could he end up working for CBS and NBC? Or CBS and Amazon? Harlan wasn’t ready to get into specifics on that, but he made it clear that he would like to keep calling the NBA no matter what.

“I can't imagine working at a better place than CBS,” said Harlan. “There have been people that have moved outside. They've let me go to Turner. I've had a chance to work for both, and Westwood One. I don't know what's ahead and quite frankly, even if this all happens in the way that personally I'd rather not see, we still have next year to broadcast. Turner still has the rights for next year, so I would have one more year.

“This business changes literally every day. Every day … you cannot believe what you're reading, you cannot believe this deal or that deal, or this move or that or whatever. So, I guess to sit here and worry about something that I have no control over until we know what the final thing is, is wasted energy. When we know, I'll talk with my wife of 37 years, who's been with me on this journey, and we'll figure out what might be the best thing for our family.

“I still have two very good employers at CBS and Westwood that I love working for and doing the NFL and still get a little college basketball in, but I'd be lying if I said that the NBA didn't have a very special place in my heart and I hope in some form or fashion that I continue with Turner and if not with Turner, we'll let the the fates guide me.”

Unfortunately for Harlan and everyone who works at TNT, the reports and rumors about the network’s future with the NBA have been making news for weeks and are still ongoing, making for a tense working situation. Barkley said morale at TNT “sucks.” Harlan said it’s “tough.”

“It’s not just the people that you hear and see, but it's all these other people that have got their lives intertwined with the broadcast and with the NBA and Turner's presentation and all the things they do,” Harlan said. “Everybody works as hard any of us that you see and hear and those are the people that I feel a lot for.

“Turner still has Major League Baseball, they still have the NHL, they've got a lot of different things going, they do these golf specials every once in a while, they have the NCAA tournament, but at the same time, the NBA is kind of a core thing. It's kind of the heart and soul of the division. We just had a production meeting about an hour ago and I look around the room and see these people that work so hard and we're all, you know, it's an uncomfortable feeling. I think about them. They have families to feed, so it's tough. It’s the business. It is what it is.”

You can listen to the full podcast with Harlan below. Other topics covered include calling the Mavericks-Timberwolves Western Conference finals, the transition from being in a two-man booth to a three-man booth for the postseason and why a three-man booth is more difficult for the NBA than college basketball, 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.

You can also listen to the 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.

2. Speaking of the the NBA’s upcoming TV rights deal and where TNT stands, this is the latest report from Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw. From Shaw’s report:

"Despite all of this, there is still a world in which [WBD CEO David] Zaslav could have held onto the rights without a major bidding war. The current broadcast partners, Disney and Warner Bros., had an exclusive window in which to negotiate a contract renewal. Disney got a handshake agreement done. Warner Bros. didn’t.

"The NBA entered talks with Warner Bros. asking for $2.3 billion per year. Zaslav topped out around $2.1 billion. The league got up from the table and walked right into the arms of Comcast and Amazon."

3. I’d bet money not one of you reading this right now have ever seen a Major League Baseball game end on an interference call. Well, it happened last night in the Orioles–White Sox game and this might be a new low for MLB umps.

4. “That’s some Florida s--- if I’ve ever seen.”

That was Dolphins linebacker Jaelan Phillips doing very amusing play-by-play in his own bathroom while discovering an iguana in his toilet.

5. I hate analytics in baseball, but I enjoy ridiculous stats like this.

6. This was quite a moment from Thursday’s episode of Wheel of Fortune.

7. RANDOM VIDEO OF THE DAY: Here’s a Saturday Night Live skit from 2012 in which the show spoofs Inside the NBA with Charles Barkley playing Shaq.

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.