TNT’s flagship Inside the NBA — with Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kenny “The Jet” Smith — is absolutely entertaining and well produced. It just hasn’t provided quality, thoughtful NBA analysis for years — it’s the ultimate basketball “get off my lawn” show at this point.
Current NBA players bristle at it.
You can see that in Instagram comments from LeBron James and Kevin Durant on Friday, in the wake of Shaq telling Donovan Mitchell he’s not good enough during a walk-off interview where Mitchell dropped 36 in Utah’s seventh-straight win.
This exchange between Shaq and Spida 👀
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 22, 2021
After that, @CuffsTheLegend posted on Instagram asking why players don’t take constructive criticism from older players well, and LeBron James and Kevin Durant jumped in.
— Rod Bridgers (@rod_bridgers) January 22, 2021
Durant: “Them old heads need to go enjoy retirement. These boys have coaches they work with everyday lol.”
LeBron: “There’s a difference between constructive criticism and soft hating though. I’ve seen it both ways come my way, mostly the hate. You can hear it in their delivery.”
LeBron is spot on here. What Shaq did was not constructive criticism, it was calling a guy out. It was hating on the modern player. Mitchell handled it perfectly.
Today’s players are generally good at receiving constructive criticism, and they will listen to former players turned coaches or mentors — NBA players (and WNBA players) went and worked out with Kobe Bryant for a reason. They got instruction on technique and mentality, and it was not Kobe trying to look better ripping a guy on television to prop himself up. It was genuine. Hakeem Olajuwon has been that guy for bigs wanting to improve footwork. There is a long list of other former players in the same role, they are not out there to pump up themselves or ratings.
Inside the NBA has become about much more than basketball, but when it turns to the league it’s too often aging superstar players looking for opportunities to knock today’s players down a peg, say how today’s game isn’t as good as it used to be, and tout their own accolades (and rings) from back in the day. Shaq, Kenny, and Charles are all-time greats, but they played in a different era — before teams could play zone defenses (which changed post play), before teams focused on the value of the three, before analytics took hold, before the pace picked up again — and they have not evolved with the times.
That may resonate with some older fans (ones still with cable packages to watch TNT), but younger players and viewers are moving on.