Shaquille O'Neal to join Charles Barkley on TNT show
Turner Sports made the announcement Thursday morning.
O'Neal, a 15-time NBA All-Star and once a sometimes contentious teammate of Kobe Bryant on the Lakers, said Thursday that he was not put off by the idea that comparisons of his rocky relationship with Bryant might be made with his role with Barkley, who is outspoken and who relishes his role as opinion-maker at TNT.
O"Neal said he didn't want to compete to be the No. 1 guy on the TNT show or in the overall realm of broadcasting. "It's already a great show," said O'Neal whose added that his favorite television analyst overall is Bryant Gumbel.
Although refusing to say whether ESPN and ABC, which broadcasts the NBA Finals, also made a run at him, O'Neal said, "I felt Turner and TNT was the place for me. It's always been my favorite show. I just thought that was the best fit for me."
O'Neal was asked if he would ever be uncomfortable criticizing Bryant. The answer was quick and definite: No. "I don't think it will be hard," O'Neal said. "Some people give unfair criticism, some fair criticism. I have the ability and the backing to give fair criticism. I walked many walks in my 19 years in the league. Any criticism I give should be fair."
Besides his role as analyst on the studio show, O'Neal will also be a contributor on NBA TV and NBA.com, and his agreement extends beyond the Turner Sports portfolio and includes a development deal with Turner Broadcasting System's entertainment and animation networks. O'Neal is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, with entertainment credits including a number of roles and executive producer credits in both television and film.
“We are thrilled to have Shaquille O'Neal join Turner Sports and our marquee roster of announcers and analysts,” said David Levy, president of sales, distribution and sports for Turner Broadcasting System Inc. “His unique insights, perspective as one of the league’s all-time great players and personality will be the perfect complement to our award-winning studio team of Ernie, Kenny and Charles, as well as to our programming on NBA TV and NBA.com.”
In a statement, Smith already gave O'Neal a nickname, The Big Analytical. O'Neal said he couldn't have done better.
And Barkley said: “He is a great addition to our team and in the immortal words of (New York Jets linebacker) Bart Scott ... CAN’T WAIT!”
The all-caps was Barkley's doing.
Next up: Will there be a show this year? O'Neal sounded almost pleading when he asked that the NBA players and ownership come to a contract agreement so that next season is played. "Please," he said.
-- Diane Pucin
Photo: Shaquille O'Neal in 2007. Credit: Lynne Sladky / Associated Press