Charles Barkley Rips ‘Clowns’ As ‘Inside the NBA’ Faces Extinction

Charles Barkley Speaks

Getty Charles Barkley looks on prior to game three of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Celtics and Heat on May 21, 2023.

Emmy award-winning show “Inside the NBA” on TNT could be drawing to a close after the 2024-25 NBA season, and Charles Barkley — who co-stars on the popular debate show alongside Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith — isn’t happy about the turn of events.

The show’s future faces uncertainty after reports surfaced that WBD is set to lose its media rights to air NBA games starting with the 2025-26 season.

Despite still being on the WBD/TNT payroll, Barkley hasn’t been afraid to speak out against his network bosses. Appearing on “The Dan Patrick Show” on May 23, Barkley ripped WBD for reportedly getting outbid by NBC.

“…Morale sucks, plain and simple,” Barkley said on TNT potentially losing the NBA media rights. “I just feel so bad for the people I work with, Dan. You know these people have families and I just really feel bad for them right now. These people I work with, they [WBD bosses] screwed this thing up, clearly, and 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 yesterday and said ‘we bought college football.’ I was like, well, damn, they could have used that money to buy the NBA.”

To Barkley’s point, WBD announced on May 23 that the network had reached a five-year deal with Walt Disney/ESPN to broadcast select College Football Playoff games starting in 2024. As part of the deal, TNT will air two first-round playoff games in 2024 and 2025, followed by two first-round games and quarterfinal games in 2026.

Can Barkley & Co. Save the Show?

During the interview with Patrick, Barkley was asked about the possibility of taking the concept of “Inside the NBA” to another network — possibly to NBC or Amazon Prime, the NBA’s two new rumored media partners replacing WBD.

In response, Barkley revealed he’d already floated the idea among his co-panelists of producing a spinoff version of “Inside the NBA” via his own production company.

“…That’s a great idea, but like I said, we’re just sitting back, waiting on these people [WBD] to figure out what they’re going to do.”

Barkley went on to refer to his bosses as “clowns” for their reported failure to retain the NBA rights.

“My two favorite wines are Inglenook and Opus. These clowns I work for, they’ve turned us into Ripple and Boone’s Farm and Thunderbird. We just won the best studio show [Emmy] and these fools turned us from Inglenook and Opus to damn Boone’s Farm and Ripple.”

A Spinoff Version of Inside the NBA?

Barkley’s backup plan to save the 19-time Emmy Award-winning show is made possible due to preventive measures he took a few years ago. The former NBA MVP signed a 10-year contract with WBD in 2022, but smartly demanded an opt-out clause for 2025, preparing for the inevitability of the network losing the NBA rights. Now that it’s nearly confirmed that TNT won’t be airing the NBA from 2025-26 and beyond, Barkley can start anew — but not entirely.

For over 30 years, “Inside the NBA” has been an institution on television. The show’s creators adopted an unconventional approach to a sports debate show, mixing in serious topics with unscripted banter and freewheeling discussions. While Earnie Johnson first started hosting the show in 1990, Smith (1998), Barkley (2000) and O’Neal (2011) joined the show following their retirements from the NBA.

As of May 24, there was no official announcement about the NBA parting ways with WBD. However, several insiders noted the NBA had formalized a deal with a new set of media partners.

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