Part of the appeal of TNT’s immensely entertaining studio show Inside the NBA is its unscripted nature, a charming, off-the-rails quality that can make it a delightful train wreck at times. The craftsmanship comes in the quartet of Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley’s masterful ability to balance poignant analysis, particularly on social issues like Black Lives Matter (Inside the NBA was also lauded for its coverage of last year’s Kobe Bryant tragedy), with moments of irreverence, like this zany scene Thursday night.
Shaq, who is paid handsomely to know and discuss all things basketball, was apparently unaware of Pascal Siakam’s first name until Ernie told it to him. O’Neal’s lapse would be easier to overlook if Siakam weren’t an All-NBA selection, a one-time All-Star, former world champion and the Raptors’ leading scorer at 20.6 points per game this season. The Hall-of-Famer is known for cracking jokes at players’ expense on his popular blooper segment “Shaqtin’ a Fool,” but Thursday’s gaffe made O’Neal the punchline for a change.
Inside the NBA delivered another memorable exchange later in the show, this time with the crew hilariously perusing the nickname section of Charles Barkley’s Basketball Reference page.
As you would imagine, most of the monikers alluded to Chuck’s portly physique (Basketball Reference lists his weight at a generous 252 pounds), an unusual body type for an NBA power forward. “Prince of Pizza” (likely in reference to this iconic photo) and “Boy Gorge” are two of my personal favorites, though the whole list is brilliant. Barkley wouldn’t say if pizza is on the menu for his 58th birthday celebration this weekend, though we do know tequila and cigars will be served in great abundance.