TNT-No-More: Why NBA's New TV Deal Actually Benefits Victor Wembanyama

Despite the obvious pushback associated with the NBA's decision to leave behind TNT in light of new TV deals, there is a method to the madness — one fans would be quick to ignore — that could monetarily benefit San Antonio Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama.
Apr 5, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Victor Wembanyama (1) arrives before the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Center.
Apr 5, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Victor Wembanyama (1) arrives before the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Center. / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
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It's hard to ignore the obvious: losing "Inside the NBA" is a gut-punch for league fans across the country.

For 12 years, constant bickering in between game analysis told the story of some of basketball's best matchups. The lighthearted nature that came from Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson made fans tune in after 48 minutes of hard-fought basketball for more.

The show won yearly awards. It constantly sat atop NBA Twitter — now X — and made for an entertaining twist to typical postgame TV segments. Yet, it's going away.

As final conversations settle between Adam Silver's NBA and NBC, Amazon Prime and ESPN, it's becoming even clearer that Turner Sports is going to lose out, and with it, Inside the NBA.

A hard truth.

Mar 5, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; General view of the TNT court side broadcast table before a game between the Phoenix Suns against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena.
Mar 5, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; General view of the TNT court side broadcast table before a game between the Phoenix Suns against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena. / Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

“I don’t feel good, I’m not going to lie," Inside the NBA host Charles Barkley said of the impending contract termination following the 2024-25 NBA season. "Especially when (TNT) came out yesterday and said, ‘We bought college football.’

"I was like, ‘Well, damn, they could’ve used that money to buy the NBA.’”

While it is true that TNT has the resources to make a deal with Adam Silver and the ever-growing NBA, it also couldn't justify the amount of money necessary to compete with Disney, NBA and ESPN. As it stands, TNT pays the league 1.2 billion for the rights to the league, and with what's coming, that would be around half of what the league could make.

So, the monetary deal checks out. Naturally, the NBA would want the deal that pays it the most money, and as it should be noted, this is a basketball deal. Not a ploy of emotion.

As it pertains to the San Antonio Spurs, Victor Wembanyama had his fair share of fun with the Inside the NBA crew, even re-learning what a churro was on Halloween night. Just like any other team and its stars, the beloved post-game show will be missed by San Antonio, but it isn't their decision.

And, there is an obvious bright side. Ironically, that also has to do with money.

How Could Victor Wembanyama Benefit from TNT's NBA Demise?

Victor Wembanyama was able to afford an $850 LEGO set with his first NBA paycheck. Over the course of his first four years with the Spurs, he'll amass over $55 million dollars and likely be able to buy 55 Millennium Falcons without so much as breaking a sweat by time his rookie deal is up.

But after that? It only gets more lucrative.

Because of the Derrick Rose rule — created after the former Chicago Bulls star earned an MVP award while still on his rookie contract — Victor Wembanyama is eligible to sign a contract extension with the Spurs worth 30 percent of their salary cap before the final season of his current deal. There's a kicker, however. The rookie has to win MVP, Defensive Player of the Year twice or earn an All-NBA distinction twice over the next three years.

Suddenly, those seven votes seem even more valuable.

READ MORE: Why Wembanyama's 7 All-NBA Votes Mean More Than You Think

Wembanyama didn't make an All-NBA team, but he gained traction on his quest toward doing so. Another year of similar stats or better — mixed with hopefully more team success — might just do the trick for him next year, if not the years that follow that.

Rudy Gobert didn't exactly help his case with Defensive Player of the Year voters after his performance in the Western Conference Finals, either. Between Wembanyama's likelihood to stay atop the NBA's defensive ladder and the idea that he's only going to get better with time, the awards are going to come, which he's made clear as well.

"At the end of the day," he said back in the early months of the season. "I'm going to get what I deserve."

Feb 7, 2024; Miami, Florida, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Victor Wembanyama (1) drives to the basket against Miami Heat forward Caleb Martin (16) and center Bam Adebayo (13) during the third quarter at Kaseya Center.
Feb 7, 2024; Miami, Florida, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Victor Wembanyama (1) drives to the basket against Miami Heat forward Caleb Martin (16) and center Bam Adebayo (13) during the third quarter at Kaseya Center. / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

So, for entertainment's sake, let's say he does. Wembanyama earns Defensive Player of the Year for the next two seasons. Or, if not that, he makes All-NBA twice. By default, he'd be eligible for the maximum extension set to kick in during the 2027-28 season for the following five years.

That would make the French phenom a Spur through the 2031-32 season, which is a dream-come-true for San Antonio, especially if he continues to develop the way he's expected to. But, how much would he be making?

Here's a brief look:

Victor Wembanyama Rookie Extension Blueprint

2027-28: $56.3 million (based on 30 percent of the projected $187,671,000 salary cap that year)
2028-29: $60.8 million (an eight percent annual raise, which will continue for the following years)
2029-30: $65.7 million
2030-31: $71.0 million
2031-32: $76.7 million

Total: 5 Years, $330.5 million

At the end of that contract, assuming everything plays out according to plan, Wembanyama will be a 27-year-old mega-millionaire. After that? Only the sky is the limit if TV contracts continue to play out the way they're about to. Victor Wembanyama could end up signing himself a $500 million contract before anyone realizes it. That's money.

READ MORE: How Would Victor Wembanyama Have Fared in the Western Conference Finals?

So, yes. Losing Inside the NBA is certainly a sucker punch. It's a travesty for the game of basketball, if you really dive into the impact it's had on young viewers. But the NBA wasn't making decisions on the basis of "robbing" its supporters. It was making a business decision. One that will benefit it.

And, if he plays his cards right, Wembanyama. He'd benefit greatly. Luckily for the Spurs, he seems more than happy to remain in San Antonio — money aside.

But rest assured, it will come.

"If I had a chance to talk to my younger self, I wouldn't say anything," Wembanyama said of his journey to becoming San Antonio's 'superhero.' "I wouldn't change anything about the path here."

"For the city of San Antonio, I found a home here."


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Matt Guzman

MATT GUZMAN

Matt Guzman is a sports journalist and storyteller from Austin, Texas. He serves as a credentialed reporter and site manager for San Antonio Spurs On SI and a staff writer for multiple collegiate sites in the same network. In the world of professional sports, he is a firm believer that athletes are people, too, and intends to tell stories of players and teams’ true, behind-the-scenes character that otherwise would not be seen through strong narrative writing, hooking ledes and passionate words.