For any free agent acquisition, it’s as much about the player traded as it is the destination. That’s precisely why Shaq joining TNT’s "Inside the NBA" is a perfect fit. The Big Fella is joining an all-star squad: Ernie Johnson is always on point running the offense, Kenny “The Jet” Smith is a versatile swingman who can shoot and dish the rock, and Charles Barkley is the center of the offense (with Chris Webber occasionally coming off the bench). But it’s Barkley and Shaq, two characters who aren’t afraid of the spotlight, who are set to run this show.
As the season’s tipoff nears, here are 10 reasons, with supporting evidence, why this group is sure to provide the most entertaining commentary of the shortened NBA season.
9. Token Fat Guy
Just months after “The Round Mound” announced he’d be teaming up with Weight Watchers to shed some LBs, Shaq starts popping up in commercials> and interviews looking like he’s started the Barkley slide. Don’t sweat it, Diesel, the show needs a fat guy for comic relief. But if things start getting really bad, just talk to Chuck. He’ll show you how to lose some weight. And Kenny will be right there for the punchline.
8. Players Fire Back
Barkley used to eat a lot of things, but his words aren’t usually on the menu. He’s an expert at dodging the bullet when he’s wrong. But the beauty of it is that everyone calls him on it regardless. Just after Barkley badmouthed Tracy McGrady, T-Mac went off for 31 points and nine assists. “I don’t listen to Charles when it comes basketball,” he told Reggie Miller after the game. “Only time I listen to Charles is when he’s talking calories in a cupcake.”
7. Camera Friendly
Shaq’s never been afraid to talk some shit on camera, whether to opponents, teammates or Craig Sager. Check out SportsCenter’s top 10 Shaq moments from 2009. Key takeaways: He’s already shown analysis skills in breaking down opponents’ weaknesses (read: everything about everyone he ever plays). He’s got the Barkleyan word-combination down (“Horawful” compared to “Trrbl”). Oh, and he’s not afraid to drop F-bombs on the air.
6. Competition Never Dies
If the show sets up races between Barkley and 77-year-old NBA ref Dick Bavetta, we can only dream what other competitions they’ll set up once four-time NBA champ Shaq joins the show. “Never underestimate the heart of a champion,” says Bavetta. Nelly agrees, Dick. So what else could we see? Cupcake eating competitions? Arm-wrestling? "Yo mama" joke-off? Speaking of that…
5. Big Fella’s Got Jokes
Shaq can take it as well as he can give it, which will be a perfect fit in a crew that jabs at each other more often than Pacquiao jabs Mayweather (seriously, can we make that fucking fight happen already?). The artist formerly known as Kazaam knows how to answer a question. Does he have a pregame routine? “I let your mother rub my feet.” Yes, now he’ll be asking as many questions as answering. Yes, he’s had plenty of practice asking questions only he knows the answers to.
4. Guests Join the Fun
Good hosts know their guests, and know what will make for a good interview. Since Kenny and Ernie regularly rip on Barkley, why not bring on the guy who does one of the best Barkley impersonations? Here’s Frank Caliendo on the show doing his best impression of the guy sitting across the desk. Luckily (unfortunately?) he doesn’t take it too far, because “that’s how bad things happen,” according to Barkley. (Skip ahead 50 seconds or so so you don’t have to watch Frank TV or whatever that crap show was.)
3. History Repeats
Oh, and about that fight… After a light foul on a layup, Barkley threw a ball at Shaq’s dome-piece in a regular season game in 1999 and an all-out melee ensued. I know I said Shaq can take a joke, but what happens if Chuck crosses the line? Let’s just hope the cameras don’t stop rolling.
2. Versatility Pays
Shaq Fu has done it all in his career. His show "Shaq Vs" helped show he can do much more than just body in the paint. He’s gone toe to toe with Oscar de la Hoya, jumped in the pool with Michael Phelps, gotten in the ring with the Bigshow and was the clear winner in a dance-off with LeBron James and Dwight Howard. And if those weren’t enough to convince you he’ll be able to handle whatever the analyst world throws at him, he also played a genie in a kids movie.
1. Kobe, Tell Me How My Ass Tastes
Yeah, we covered Fu’s rap career a little bit above, and he’s certainly not the first NBA player to attempt a rap spinoff. But damn if this isn’t one of the best of them. Informed, witty, rhythmic. Here’s to hoping the man of many nicknames (did I miss any?) doesn’t censor himself once there’s makeup on his face.
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