“I would absolutely welcome total mayhem,” says Turner Sports producer Tim Kiely of The Inside the NBA studio crew of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O'Neal calling the Timberwolves-Lakers game on Christmas night.

By Richard Deitsch
December 19, 2017

Turner Sports producer Tim Kiely would be overjoyed if the Christmas Night broadcast between the Timberwolves and Lakers is a train wreck. “I hope that people say they learned a few things and it was a fun watch but I would be absolutely would welcome total mayhem,” Kiely said. “If there are a couple of fender benders during the show, good.”

Kiely is the longtime producer of Inside The NBA, the best sports television studio show in history according to this column, and NBA viewers will get a treat on Christmas night: The Inside the NBA studio crew of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O'Neal will call the Timberwolves-Lakers at 10:30 p.m. ET. (Kristen Ledlow will serve as the sideline reporter.) It is the first time the quartet has ever called a game together. They will also handle pregame, halftime and postgame coverage.

“I don’t think there is any kind of standard game anymore,” Kiely said. “I think people like this kind of broadcast because the players are telling you stuff they were thinking as the ball is being brought up court. Why does it always have to be the announcer tells you what just happened, which you just saw, and then player tells you why it happened in a replay?”

It doesn’t. Turner experimented last year with a Monday night franchise titled PlayersOnly featuring former players serving in the traditional play-by-play, studio host and reporter positions. Kiely said Johnson, Barkley and Smith first called a game together about a decade ago and Barkley, O’Neal and Smith have all served as game analysts but never together as a trio.

Kiely said you expect to see some untraditional things—like following one of the announcers to the door of the restroom if duty calls. “I’m sure Charles will complain throughout the show about the length of the day and working Christmas,” Kiely said. “But I love it, and I think the people at home will too.”

THE NOISE REPORT

(SI.com examines some of the week’s most notable stories)

1. CBS Sports Network lucked into a very big women’s basketball game when UConn coach Geno Auriemma goes for career win No. 1,000 against Oklahoma at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Brent Stover, Debbie Antonelli and Jamie Erdahl (sideline) will be on the call for the UConn game. As part of its game coverage, CBS Sports Network will showcase all post-game ceremonies immediately following a UConn victory. Following the conclusion of the game, CBS will air a live edition of “We Need To Talk,” featuring panelists Dana Jacobson, Dara Torres, Andrea Kremer and former UConn All-American Swin Cash. CBS says the live edition of the show will feature interviews and post-game reactions from UConn-Oklahoma. After that, the network will air “Box Girls of Nairobi,” which tells the story of a young mother and her boxing coach, and how they have used the sport as a vehicle to teach young girls about self-empowerment in Nairobi. Laila Ali narrates the doc.

2. Sports Illustrated had a number of stories on John Skipper resigning as ESPN president on Monday:

Shock, speechlessness, and skepticism. ESPN president John Skipper abruptly resigns from the company.

• On John Skipper's ESPN legacy as a publisher.

• Looking back at ESPN's very rocky 2017.

2a. Here's Sports Business Daily’s story on John Skipper's resignation, plus a list of likely successors.

3. The alleged culture of sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination at ESPN, as reported by The Boston Globe last week, could have a long legal and professional fallout. Here is some reporting from SI legal analyst Michael McCann and I.

4. Some journalism of note over the past seven days:

• Brilliant work from John Branch and The New York Times graphics and production team: Deliverance from 27,000 feet.

• This is really worth your time. Mimi O’Donnell reflected on the loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman and the devastation of addiction.

• Why millennials are facing the scariest financial future of any generation since the Great Depression. Remarkable piece by Huff Po Highline.

• Via Stratechery: Disney and Fox.

• Megan Greenwell of California Sunday, on Latina boxers.

• A thread from Garry Kasparov.

• Major story on Panthers owner Jerry Richardson from SI’s Jon Wertheim and Viv Bernstein.

• Via The New York Times: ‘Trump, Trump, Trump!’ How a President’s Name Became a Racial Jeer.

• A first person piece from a woman who had a secret relationship with Matt Lauer—and the damage it caused.

• From The Washington Post: Trent Franks rescinded my internship when I wouldn’t come to his house.

• Dick Jerardi, an iconic Philadelphia Daily News sports columnist, retired from the paper after nearly 33 years and more than 7,000 stories.

• Washington Post writer Kent Babb on Larry Johnson, the former NFL running back who believes he's living with CTE.

5. On Monday the best-selling author James Andrew Miller launched "Origins Chapter 2: ESPN," an audio retrospective on the beginnings and evolutionary paths of ESPN. The first episode of the five part podcast, which is excellent, focuses on "ESPN & Social Media: A Troubled Marriage," where Miller interviewed 23 current and former ESPNers including ESPN president John Skipper, Jemele Hill, Michael Wilbon, Bill Simmons and many others.

Future episodes include:

January 3, Episode 2: Pardon the Interruption
January 10, Episode 3: College Game Day
January 17, Episode 4: 30 for 30
January 24, Episode 5: SportsCenter

6. Good NFL: CBS’s coverage Sunday of the Patriots-Steelers game drew a 17.0 overnight rating, the highest overnight for the 2017 season and up 8% over last year’s game in this slot.

Bad NFL: Per Josh Carpenter‏ of Sports Business Daily: ESPN drew a 6.5 overnight rating for Atlanta’s win over Tampa Bay on Monday night, down 19% from an 8.0 in Week 15 last year for Panthers-Redskins.

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