Shaquille O'Neal gave a conference call earlier Thursday to discuss his decision to join TNT's Inside the NBA alongside Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley. Shaq said that while he also received offers from ESPN and ABC, joining TNT was an easy call.
"It was an easy decision," Shaq said. "They're very upfront over there. You guys, as they say in the sports world, like to keep it real over there."
Shaq said he didn't want to "lead people on," and therefore chose TNT very quickly. He emphasized his plan to just fit in and make a good thing better, suggesting that now the show has a guard's' perspective (Smith), a forward's (Barkley) and a center's (Shaq). He said he's not concerned that there won't be enough air time for all three and said he feels comfortable being critical towards players if needed.
"Some people give unfair criticism, some people give fair criticisms. I have he ability and the background to give fair criticism," he said.
Shaq said TNT was always his favorite show and said he hopes to broadcast like Bryant Gumble. He also discussed a number of other topics. Namely:
On Yao Ming: "I do think Yao Ming is a first-ballot Hall of Famer."
On Kenny Smith calling him "The Big Analytical" in the press release: "I like that one. Good job Kenny. The Big Analytical. I like that."
On running for sheriff: "I still have plans on running for sheriff, but not for a while."
On the lockout: "The only people suffering in this lockout situation are the fans. The regular everyday man doesn't understand millionaires vs. billionaires."
On LeBron James: Shaq said he learned from Michael Jordan that you have to learn how to fail before you learn how to succeed, and he thinks LeBron will be back to the Finals.
On his legacy: "I want to be remembered as the most dominant player ever or one of the most dominant players ever."
On Dwight Howard: "If he doesn't win 2 or 3 championships, I'll be very disappointed. He has no competition. None."
Last week's news that Shaquille O'Neal would be joining Turner Sports after retiring from the NBA is met with further clarification on Wednesday, as John Ourand of Sports Business Journal reports that Shaq will be added to TNT's award-winning Inside The NBA studio show, which stars Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and anchor Ernie Johnson. Ourand reports that Shaq's deal will also include projects for Turner's entertainment and animation divisions. Inside The NBA, which regularly airs after TNT's Thursday double-header during the regular season, is beloved by a great number of basketball fans, and is without question the best NBA studio show on TV.
TNT has played with a four-person panel before. Magic Johnson was a regular on the show before signing a deal with ABC and ESPN, and Chris Webber has been exemplary in spot appearances on Inside The NBA. (Webber also does color commentary work for TNT and NBA TV.) During the playoffs, TNT also often brings in idle NBA stars to join the panel for halftime discussion, and would borrow NBA TV on-air personalities like Kevin McHale (now the Houston Rockets' head coach).
How Shaq will fit in to the already bombastic line-up remains to be seen, but it's hard to imagine a more goofy, fun-loving addition.
Almost immediately after Shaquille O'Neal announced his retirement, the attention turned to what's next. Shaq has always been an engaging personality, building his brand by carefully presenting a happy-go-lucky, media-friendly face. He's got humor, can draw in fans and is a ready-made television personality. It was only a matter of time before he took up a broadcasting career, much like Charles Barkley has done.
On Saturday, CNBC's Darren Rovell reported Shaq will join Turner, presumably in some kind of broadcasting/analysis role.
For NBA fans and casual observers, this is the perfect marriage. Putting Shaq together with Barkley has the makings of something special, and should have fans excited for what Turner comes up with. The Turner analysts, including Barkley, Kenny Smith and Chris Webber, have an interesting dynamic that creates some great television. The back-and-forth that's developed is already entertaining, and adding Shaq the the mix takes it to another level.
While we don't yet know what Shaq will be doing, at least we know where he's heading. It's a great move for Turner and a great move for Shaq, who seems like the type of personality destined for broadcasting success.
For more on Shaq's new career, stay with this StoryStream.