By Barry Janoff
October 19, 2016: Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose may be among the players who will be on new teams when the NBA season begins, but Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal are returning to Turner Sports’ Emmy Award winning NBA on TNT's Inside the NBA.
TNT will start its coverage of the 2016-17 NBA regular season on Oct. 25, with a doubleheader featuring the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers hosting the New York Knicks and the San Antonio Spurs visiting the Golden State Warriors. (Full schedule here.)
TNT is supporting with a multi-platform marketing push, including ads under the umbrella theme, “A Season of Endless Possibilities, with the first spot featuring rapper Anderson Paak.
The night’s programming begins with a one-hour TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by AutoTrader pre-game show, with coverage also including Cleveland’s championship ring ceremony prior to the start of the game.
Before that, Turner Sports is unveiling the NBA on TNT Road Show, beginning with opening night in Cleveland (3 PM ET).
The opening night NBA on TNT Road Show will be a 75,000 square foot interactive space located outside the Cavaliers’ Quicken Loans Arena, according to Turner Sports.
Throughout the season, it is scheduled to include "multifaceted fan friendly attractions aligned with select tent pole events throughout the NBA season (including) musical performances, interactive fan experiences, pop-up stores and food trucks." Wiz Khalifia is scheduled to perform during the premiere show.
TNT also will launch in 2017 The Race Card, hosted by Barkley, currently scheduled for six one-hour shows to “take on today’s hot-topic buttons.”
Barkley spoke with NYSportsJournalism and members of the media during an NBA on TNT press event in New York on Tuesday, covering such topics as Kevin Durant, the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, Colin Kaepernick, race relations and the NBA moving its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, NC.
• What is your opinion about what Colin Kaepernick and other athletes are doing during the National Anthem?
Charles Barkley: What he’s doing is not right or wrong. If you want to protest, you have the right to. That’s what America is. But I challenge all these guys to actually support the cause in the communities. Kaepernick is giving money back to the community. Players need to do that and more. You can raise a fist, you can take a knee. But what have you been doing to resolve the problems? Guys are going to protest, that’s fine. But i like it when guys show solidarity, that they are going to stick together to make things better. When you take a knee, that’s not showing it; that’s a distraction unless you are actually out in the community doing something. You can protest, but I challenge all of them to do more. You have to go out into the community to make a difference.
• Should athletes be role models for kids?
CB: Too many young black kids think they are going to play professional sports. When I said in the Nike commercial (in 1993) that I am not a role model, I knew there was a problem because they brainwashed all these kids into thinking they were going to play in the NBA or in pro sports. They didn’t think they could be doctors, lawyers. I was happy about that commercial. I don’t want young black kids to think that professional sports and the NBA is the only way they can make it in life. A couple will make it, but the majority have to get real jobs. When it comes to education and kids, they can't find money. But when it comes to moving a team or building a new stadium, $1B suddenly shows up.
• What needs to be done to change that thinking?
CB: Until we all realize that, and change the system about getting a free college education, we have to use the system to dramatically change the lives of these kids. We can spend all our time taking about Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone and guys who made it to the NBA. I don’t care about those guys; those guys are going to be fine. I worry about the 99% of black kids who go to college who can’t take advantage of the system to get a degree and then get a good job. When something happens they go to the black athletes to get their opinions. They look at the black athletes to be activists. It’s not always like that. There are athletes who make a difference. (But) I was talking to a professor of mine and he said you can’t compare today’s athletes to Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Muhammad Ali and the impacts that they had.
• Do people ask you about your role in the community?
CB: I always have people who ask what I’m doing in the community. What I do, they way I do it, is to not make noise in public. I’m always willing to put my money where my mouth is. I had a player come up to me and say, You talk about athletes needing to make a difference in the community. What have you done? I said, Do you want me to tell you. Do you want me to embarrass you. I donated $1 million to Auburn (where he attended college), I donated $1 million to Morehouse. I donated $1 million to the Wounded Warrior Project. I donated a million to Leeds High School (in Alabama, which he attended) and a million to Cornerstone (Schools of Birmingham, Alabama) for scholarships so kids could go to college.
"I don’t want young black kids to think that pro sports and the NBA is the only way they can make it in life. A couple will make it, but the majority have to get real jobs."
• You’re going to be doing a show on TNT looking at the issues of the day. What do you anticipate?
CB: At Turner we don’t back away from issues. They use me to make money and I use them to make my points in a public forum. I will always speak up for those who can’t. Poor people, and not just poor black people but poor white people. It is still about race, but in this country it is more about rich versus poor. I was born in 1963, the year of the church bombing in Birmingham and (in 1965) was the Selma (to Montgomery march). It’s amazing to me that 50 years later we still have the same issues.
• How do you think the NBA and commissioner Adam Silver handled the situation in pulling the All-Star Game out of Charlotte regarding the LBGT situation?
CB: I thought that was a great move by commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA. I was one of the first people who said it should be done. You have to stand up for people who can’t stand up for themselves. Adam Silver has been a great commissioner since taking over from David Stern (in February 2014). He has done a fantastic job. Remember, he started in the midst of the Donald Sterling situation. It was a toxic situation. And he was following perhaps the greatest commissioner in the history of sports.
• You spent your entire career with David Stern as commissioner. What do you see as his legacy?
CB: Look at what David Stern did for the NBA. When I came into the NBA (1984) it was David Stern’s first year. People looked at NBA players as a bunch of guys using drugs. They weren’t making a lot of money, with the average salary less than $500,000. Now its about $5 million. And we have fans around the world. You give a lot of that credit to David Stern, and Adam Silver is doing a great job to keep the NBA growing.
• What do you think about the negotiations between the NBA and NBA Players’ Assn. on the new collective bargaining agreement?
CB: These guys would be idiots not to work out their differences Everybody is making a ton of money. If there was a lockout, a strike, that would be stupid.
• Is Kevin Durant a villain because he left Oklahoma City for Golden State?
CB: Kevin Durant is not a villain for leaving Oklahoma to play for Golden State. But he’s making himself a villain. He left. He’s happy. He’s making money. He should shut up. Taking shots at Russell Westbrook and those guys, that unnecessary. LeBron James knows that winning an NBA title in Miami is not the same as winning in Cleveland That's what Kevin Durant will find out in Golden State.
• Do you see Golden State winning the title this year?
CB: I said (the Warriors) couldn’t play that little small-ball and win a championship if everybody they played against was healthy. I said they’d wear down, and they did. I said Cleveland was going to beat them, and they did. Reporters have been bashing me because they think I’m a Golden State hater. The year they won the championship, everybody (else) was playing hurt. I said last year if they win the championship I would get on my knees on the first show (this year) and say I was wrong. I haven’t heard anybody say, Charles was right.
This year, they still have the same issues: Can they rebound? Can they get any low-post scoring? they’re still going to be shooting jumpers. Can their type of play hold up through the rigors of the NBA playoffs? The one year they won it, they got lucky. Everybody else was playing hurt. Draymond Green was suspended for one game. They lost three. I love the BS about Draymond: He was suspended for one game; what about the other two they lost?
• What do you think about the NBA and super teams?
CB: It undermines the integrity of the game. I don’t want to have my team out of it on Day 1 (if you don’t have a super team). The only people who agree with it are the ones who get the superstars, not the teams who lose superstar.
• Looking at all these players who changed teams, is it realistic to expect them to come in and not face some challenges — new team, new players, new coach, new game plan — before really fitting in?
CB: There is always an adjustment. Derrick Rose, if he’s healthy, has a lot at stake. He will be a free agent. If he stays healthy, if Joacim Noah stays healthy, the New York Knicks could be a dangerous team. Other than LeBron and the Cavaliers, in the East, nobody is at the Cavaliers’ level. I love Toronto, I love what Boston is doing. But nobody fears them. But if you have Carmelo Anthony, Derrick and Noah playing at a high level, and they have Kristaps Porzingas, not many people would want to face them in the playoffs.
• What about Westbrook and OKC?
CB: I like what Oklahoma City has done. I don’t know if they can beat the other (top) teams in a seven-game series, but they will be one of the most under-rated teams this year. They should have won a championship last year if Durant wasn’t hurt (appearing in just 27 games during the regular season). If he stayed, and with the additions they made, they might have been the prohibitive favorites going into the season this year. Whoever comes out on top in the West will have gone through hell. That’s not a bad thing.
"Durant is not a villain for leaving Oklahoma to play for Golden State. But he’s making himself a villain. He left. He’s happy. He’s making money. He should shut up."
• You played with the Phoenix Suns, where Jeff Hornacek played for six years and later coached for three years. Do you see him being a good fit as head coach for the Knicks?
CB: I started there (1992) the year he was traded so we never played together. I thought he did a really good job as head coach in Phoenix (2013-16) before it went downhill. I like Jeff. It’s going to be dictated in New York by who stays healthy. You have Carmelo and Rose, who I really love his game. Rose’s energy in under-rated. Energy is a talent. But he has to stay healthy.
• Would TNT consider putting Kobe, Tim Duncan or Kevin Garnett on the show, perhaps as guests during the new NBA on TNT Road Show?
CB: I would love to have Kobe, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett on our show. They would make great guests. But you don’t really know how good someone is util the camera comes on. When it comes to being on television, they are all just not comfortable. A lot of guys just don’t have the personality to do TV. And some that do have great personalities can’t do TV. They can’t relax in front of a camera. Or they are worried about hurting players’ feelings. I’ve been around Tim Duncan maybe 15 times and he’s said maybe 15 words.
I want players to be successful but when they screw up you have to say so. Not to bad-mouth any other network, but we do not use ‘gotcha’ journalism. We’re not looking for sound bites or to just play the bad stuff. The No. 1 thing about this job: No matter what you say, half the people will like it, half the people will hate it. So you have to be true to yourself.
• What would it take to get LeBron into your All-Time Top Five?
CB: Nobody can get into my Top Five. My all-time NBA Top 5 is Bill Russell, Michael (Jordan), Wilt (Chamberlain), Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) and Oscar Robertson. LeBron is amazing but not in my Top Five. I have him in the Top Ten, and I get a lot of heat for that, which amazes me because that’s Top Ten of all the players who ever played in the NBA. If he wins a couple of more championships, I’d move him past (No. 6) Tim Duncan and (No. 7) Kobe Bryant. He’s there with Magic, Larry Bird, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor.
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