It’s hard to picture TNT’s must-watch “Inside the NBA” working without Charles Barkley. Shaq is great, Kenny Smith fits perfectly, Ernie Johnson is a great straight man and facilitator, but Barkley is the engine of that show.
However, Barkley has hinted he could walk away from TNT when his contract is up in 2016.
If he does the suits at TNT are going to struggle to find the right guy to replace him, but Sports Illustrated’s smart media writer Richard Deitsch had an interesting suggestion:
There are certain traits shared by the best sports broadcasters: intelligence, passion, credibility and honesty. Personally, I like a bit of edge and distance from the establishment, too. Bryant possesses all of these. If you talk to NBA beat and national writers, Bryant has become one of the best interview subjects in the game. That he’s also an all-time great is a huge marketing bonus….
If Bryant indicates he is serious about a broadcasting career after his NBA career ends, industry sources say he’d command $4 million to $5 million annually, if not more, because there would be a heavy competition for his services. ESPN (whose studio show is based in L.A.) and Turner are guaranteed to be interested.
“He’s obviously smart and articulate and he would be a great candidate,” said Turner Sports senior vice president and executive creative director Craig Barry. “But like any job there is a certain amount of passion that the person needs to have for the day to day. That element of passion and wanting to share the game is a huge part of being able to connect with the viewer. That’s a huge part of being a successful broadcaster and I think Kobe would be great at it. But he would have to want to do it.”
Kobe has spent more time in recent years building up his business brand, Kobe Inc. It is that world he is expected to focus on when he hangs up his sneakers, he’ll be a businessman.
But few things are better for your brand than being on television every week.
That said, I’m not sure being in a barbershop style studio show like “Inside the NBA” really fits Kobe. He’s smart and sarcastic and can be funny, but he’s a little too intense and serious for that style show. Although him and Shaq in the same room once a week would be awesome. However, I could see Kobe as a studio analyst for ESPN.
I don’t expect Kobe to take that kind of role or do television at all, in fact I hope come 2016 Barkley has a change of heart and doesn’t leave TNT. But this is out there.