As the studio host of TBS and TNT's NBA coverage and those
networks' Inside the NBA show (Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith
are his partners on TNT), Ernie Johnson logs more airtime than a
commercial pilot. Last week Johnson, 45, won his first Emmy
Award, as the top studio host in sports TV.
SI: If Charles Barkley were running for governor of your home
state, Georgia, would you vote for him?
Johnson: No, I'd move.
SI: Should a 45-year-old man wear a goatee?
Johnson: It's like I tell my wife: Facial hair--it grows on you.
SI: Is there really any reason to watch the NBA before the
Johnson: Yes, you should watch us at halftime. Charles might be
chastising Larry King for having Monica Lewinsky on his show.
SI: What's the most basketball games you've seen in one day?
Johnson: I watched 14 on the last night of the regular season.
SI: Why is it so damn hard for Charles to get publicity?
Johnson: I don't know. Kenny and I have done our best to contact
the writers we know, telling them this guy might have something
SI: You're credited with giving nicknames to Dallas center Shawn
Bradley (Stormin' Mormon) and former Indiana center Rik Smits
(Dutch Boy in the Paint). Have you always been good at
nicknaming Caucasian centers?
Johnson: Well, my dad [former major leaguer and longtime Braves
announcer Ernie Johnson Sr.] was a Caucasian center when he
SI: Your dad got to broadcast Hank Aaron's 714th home run; you
had the pleasure of announcing that Kwame Brown was the NBA's
No. 1 pick in 2001. Any similarities in these calls?
Johnson: Yeah, the people listening will never forget where they
were when we made them.
SI: If Hakeem Olajuwon weren't with Houston, how many rings
would Kenny Smith own?
Johnson: (laughs) The same number as Charles.
SI: What's the better acting performance: You on HBO's Arli$$ or
Barkley in his latest Coors commercial?
Johnson: Neither of us was actually acting, so I guess it's a
SI: Ted Turner: Brilliant eccentric or flat-out crazy?
Johnson: Brilliant eccentric.
SI: So he's still signing your checks, right?
Johnson: Do I even need to answer that? --R.D.