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How The 4 Faces Of Inside The NBA Make 1 Great Show

“In an industry where everyone has an opinion about everything and everyone, no one has much bad to say about Inside the NBA.”





The 2019-2020 NBA season is upon us. How will one of the most interesting and unpredictable offseason’s be paid off? Well, starting tonight the talking is over and we’re on a road to finding out.

Most Americans will turn to TNT this season when they want someone to make sense of the league’s biggest stories or see some of its biggest matchups. This is the 30th anniversary of the network being in the basketball business, and that deserves to be celebrated.

We’re not going to lay out a retrospective of all three decades. Hell, outside of the “Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday!” song, there wasn’t much notable about TNT’s NBA coverage until the year 2000. That is when the show that put the network in heavy rotation for NBA fans was launched.

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Today, we are going to take a look at Inside the NBA. This isn’t a history of the show. Four of us here at Barrett Sports Media are going to look at what makes the show great by looking at what makes each of its four stars great.

In an industry where everyone has an opinion about everything and everyone, no one has much bad to say about Inside the NBA. That is a testament to the men and women both in front of and behind the camera, but for today, let’s focus on the men we see before, during, and after every game on TNT.


While many may think it’s, Kenny, Shaq and Charles that make Inside the NBA the show it is, I disagree. It’s all about having a quality, well-seasoned, witty and capable host. It’s all about Ernie Johnson. Let me tell you why. 

As a studio host it’s not easy to just walk onto a set and be tremendous. Johnson has the added task of working with big personalities who have not been trained as broadcasters. That’s what makes this show, hosted by Johnson so special.

He is among the best studio hosts around. Johnson handles the three ringed circus with just the right amount of wit, sarcasm and professionalism to make it all work. I love the fact that he doesn’t take himself too seriously and allows the “players” to be the stars of the show. Johnson isn’t afraid to laugh at himself either which is a tremendous quality. If he’s not there to act as the traffic cop, the show would run itself out of control.  Inside the NBA wouldn’t work without Johnson.

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When you are working with some “wildcards” that have varying opinions and varying ways of expressing them, as a host you’ve got to be ready for everything. It’s very easy to tell that Johnson comes well prepared for every show. Sometimes he needs to jump in to make sure that facts are presented correctly and Johnson does this in such a way as to not look like he’s correcting one of his teammates. That is an art form and I’m sure appreciated by the guys on the set with him. 

Johnson has been around the game of basketball for quite some time and knows a lot about the NBA. He is smart enough though, to defer to the guys that played it at the highest level, when it comes to breaking down a game. His knowledge allows him to nudge the guys in the right direction, with excellent follow up questions or analogies. It’s fun to watch. 

Johnson is a versatile broadcaster, which allows him to transition from the NBA to the NCAA Tournament pretty seamlessly during the run up to the Final Four. Even when paired with different people on set, he just continues to do what he does and makes the shows flow like he’s worked with them for years. That is not easy to do. 


Honest, fearless, comedic and spontaneous are the first four words I think of when it comes to Charles Barkley. For nearly twenty years basketball fans have enjoyed his raw and unfiltered approach on Inside The NBA, making the show a must-watch. It hasn’t mattered that the league enjoys a business relationship with TNT or that players have friendships with Charles because if he has an opinion, it’s being delivered with a purpose, and if it ruffles a few feathers in the process so be it.

Though his lack of structure may drive executives nuts at times, it’s Chuck’s off the rails and unpredictable style that helps make Inside The NBA one of the best sports shows on television. Another attraction is the cast’s authenticity and credibility. Their experiences are well documented and their discussions are honest, funny and spirited. That helps the viewer feel like they’re watching four well known respected friends talk about the NBA and providing a mixture of laughs, insights and unscripted ball busting in the process.

If there’s an attribute that sometimes gets undervalued it’s Charles’ ability to be self-deprecating. We love his strong opinions and willingness to venture into odd conversations, but he’s also more than comfortable being the butt of the joke. When laughter ensues on this show, it’s impossible to change the channel. One minute Charles may butcher a foreign player’s name, the next he’s either losing his train of thought during a commentary or taking part in a produced bit that leaves you in stitches. 

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Not many personalities on the air today can piss off NBA executives by telling viewers a particular game is bad or an NBA service isn’t worth paying for, but the league is wise enough to recognize this is who Charles Barkley is and he’s not changing for anyone. When you combine his credentials as a hall of fame basketball player and his larger than life unique personality with the team of Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith, you have a sports television show that’s first in class and the envy of every other sports network.


“Glue Guy” is a term tossed around in sports to describe a teammate who may not be the biggest star, may not have the best resume and flat out may not be a house hold name.  He is, however, a locker room guy, everyone’s friend.  The proverbial straw that stirs the drink.  While this might be a relatively accurate description – Kenny “the Jet” Smith is hardly just a “Glue Guy.”

If Ernie is the point guard, Chuck the power forward and Shaq the center – Kenny is without question the team’s versatile shooting guard/small forward.  

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Consider your typical halftime show.  Ernie will welcome the audience and distribute to his three analysts as he sees fit.  If a marquee big man is struggling or excelling – he’ll look to Shaq for comment.  If a player or team is disproving an adamant point Chuck made in the pregame, he’ll lob it over to the quote machine.  You might see one, both or neither of these happen in any NBA on TNT halftime show – one thing you can always count on is Kenny’s Big Board.

Kenny’s Big Board, outside of being a tool to show off the comically large set, is arguably the most insightful element the best NBA studio show has to offer.  Whether it’s guards going under screens, big men not rotating fast enough, or just flat out bad shooting – Kenny will show you exactly why the first half of a game played out how it did.  The bells and whistles of the segment are always impressive – but it’s Kenny who shines as he points out small details the casual NBA fan would never notice.  It’s well known that Inside the NBA is built on personality, but it’s these moments that offer the best analysis in what might be the best studio show in sports television.

As for each show’s inevitable off-the-rails banter, Kenny Smith easily holds his own.  When Chuck is making a point, the Jet knows exactly what to say to antagonize the star of the show.  More times than not – it’s merely reminding Barkley of a different point he made the day before that completely discredits his current rant.  He may not have the MVPs or the hall of fame credentials of his counterparts, but Kenny is well armed with the ultimate equalizer in NBA debates – two rings.  And no, it’s not his fault Jordan left the league for two years.

Kenny may not make the controversial statement that runs through the media cycle the next day – but his knowledge of the game and Chuck’s head make him an invaluable member of the squad.


There isn’t a guy alive in my generation that didn’t look at Shaquille O’Neal with absolute wonder and awe when we were kids. We all wanted to be like Mike. We knew no matter what we did, we’d never be like Shaq…at least on the court.

Off the court, Shaq was just like us, and he’s still just like us. How can a physical freak also fill the role of Inside the NBA’s everyman? It’s because Shaq is a giant goofball, a kid at heart that is as shocked by the spoils his profession has brought him as anyone watching is.

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Shaq can explain how the role of the big man has changed. He can point out when someone is dogging it on defense. He can do both by making jokes at the expense of his work ethic or free throw shooting. That isn’t when he is most valuable to this show.

Inside the NBA gets the most out of Shaq when he is dancing with the Jabawokees or when he is eating the world’s hottest chips. He is comfortable in the role of basketball’s clown prince because he operates from a place of emotion. Sometimes that leads to genuine hostility with Charles Barkley or his other co-workers, but Shaq shows up to the studio looking to have a good time and more often than not, he does and so do the people around him.

Pregame and halftime shows across all sports are built on fake laughter. That is what makes Shaq and Inside the NBA a welcome and needed change of pace. His smile and laugh are infectious. Seeing someone that size, that legendary in his sport genuinely having fun is genuinely fun.

BSM Writers

Amanda Brown Has Embraced The Bright Lights of Hollywood

“My whole goal was that I didn’t need people to like me; I needed people to respect me.”

Derek Futterman




The tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and eight others aboard a helicopter, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, sent shockwaves around the world of sports, entertainment, and culture. People traveled to Los Angeles following the devastating news and left flowers outside the then-named STAPLES Center, the arena which Bryant called home for much of his career, demonstrating the magnitude of the loss. Just across the street from the arena, Amanda Brown and the staff at ESPN Los Angeles 710 had embarked in ongoing breaking news coverage, lamentation, and reflection.

It included coverage of a sellout celebration of life for Kobe and his daughter and teams around the NBA opting to take 8-second and 24-second violations to honor Bryant, who wore both numbers throughout his 20-year NBA career. They currently hang in the rafters at Arena, making Bryant the only player in franchise history to have two numbers retired.

During this tumultuous time, Bryant’s philosophy served as a viable guiding force, something that Brown quickly ascertained in her first month as the station’s new program director.

“I had people that were in Northern California hopping on planes to get here,” Brown said. “You didn’t even have to ask people [to] go to the station; people were like, ‘I’m on my way.’ It was the way that everybody really came together to do really great radio, and we did it that day and we did it the next day and we did it for several days.”

The 2023 BSM Summit is quickly approaching, and Brown will be attending the event for the first time since 2020. During her first experience at the BSM Summit in New York, Brown had just become a program director and was trying to assimilate into her role. Because of this, she prioritized networking, building contacts, and expressing her ideas to others in the space. This year, she looks forward to connecting with other program directors and media professionals around the country while also seeking to learn more about the nuances of the industry.

“The Summit is kind of like a meeting of the minds,” Brown said. “It’s people throughout the country and the business…. More than anything, [the first time] wasn’t so much about the panels as it was about the people.”

Growing up in Orange County, Brown had an interest in the Los Angeles Lakers from a young age, being drawn to play-by-play broadcaster Chick Hearn. Brown refers to Hearn as inspiration to explore a career in broadcasting. After studying communications at California State University in Fullerton, she was afforded an opportunity to work as a producer at ESPN Radio Dallas 103.3 FM by program director Scott Masteller, who she still speaks to on a regular basis. It was through Masteller’s confidence in her, in addition to support from operations manager Dave Schorr, that helped make Brown feel more comfortable working in sports media.

“I never felt like I was a woman in a male-dominated industry,” Brown said. “I always just felt like I was a part of the industry. For me, I’ve kind of always made it my goal to be like, ‘I deserve to be here; I deserve a seat at the table.’”

Brown quickly rose up the ranks when she began working on ESPN Radio in Bristol, Conn., working as a producer for a national radio show hosted by Mike Tirico and Scott Van Pelt, along with The Sports Bash with Erik Kuselias. Following five-and-a-half years in Bristol, Brown requested a move back to California and has worked at ESPN Los Angeles 710 ever since. She began her tenure at the station serving as a producer for shows such as Max and Marcellus and Mason and Ireland.

Through her persistence, work ethic and congeniality, Brown was promoted to assistant program director in July 2016. In this role, she helped oversee the station’s content while helping the entity maintain live game broadcast rights and explore new opportunities to augment its foothold, including becoming the flagship radio home of the Los Angeles Rams.

“Don’t sit back and wait for your managers or your bosses to come to you and ask what you want to do,” Brown advised. “Go after what you want, and that’s what I’ve always done. I always went to my managers and was like, ‘Hey, I want to do this. Give me a chance; let me do that.’ For the most part, my managers have been receptive and given me those opportunities.”

When executive producer Dan Zampillo left the station to join Spotify to work as a sports producer, Brown was subsequently promoted to program director where she has helped shape the future direction of the entity. From helping lead the brand amid its sale to Good Karma Brands in the first quarter of 2022; to revamping the daily lineup with compelling local programs, Brown has gained invaluable experience and remains keenly aware of the challenges the industry faces down the road. For sports media outlets in Los Angeles, some of the challenge is merely by virtue of its geography.

“We’re in sunny Southern California where there’s a lot of things happening,” Brown said. “We’re in the middle of Hollywood. People have a lot of opportunities – you can go to the mountains; you can go to the beach. I think [our market] is more about entertainment than it is about actual hard-core sports. Yes, obviously you have hard-core Lakers fans; you have hard-core Dodgers fans, but a majority of the fans are pretty average sports fans.”

Because of favorable weather conditions and an endless supply of distractions, Brown knows that the way to attract people to sports talk radio is through its entertainment value. With this principle in mind, she has advised her hosts not to worry so much about the specific topics they are discussing, but rather to ensure they are entertaining listeners throughout the process.

“People know the four letters E-S-P-N mean sports, but really our focus is more on entertainment more than anything,” Brown said. “I think the [talent] that stick out the most are the ones that are the most entertaining.”

Entertaining listeners, however, comes through determining what they are discussing and thinking about and providing relevant coverage about those topics. Even though it has not yet been legalized in the state of California, sports gambling content has been steadily on the rise since the Supreme Court made a decision that overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act established in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association (2018). Nonetheless, Brown and ESPN Los Angeles 710 have remained proactive, launching a sports gambling show on Thursday nights to try to adjust to the growing niche of the industry.

Even though she has worked in producing and programming for most of her career, Brown is eager to learn about the effect sports gambling has on audio sales departments. At the same time, she hopes to be able to more clearly determine how the station can effectuate its coverage if and when it becomes legal in their locale.

“I know that a lot of other markets have that,” Brown said regarding the legalization of sports gambling. “For me, I’m interested to hear from people who have that in their markets and how they’ve monetized that and the opportunity.”

No matter the content, though, dedicated sports radio listeners are genuinely consuming shows largely to hear certain talent. Brown recalls receiving a compliment on Twitter earlier this quarter where a listener commented that he listens to ESPN Los Angeles 710 specifically for Sedano and Kap. Evidently, it acted as a tangible sign that her philosophy centered around keeping people engrossed in the content is working, and that providing the audience what it wants to hear is conducive to success.

At this year’s BSM Summit, Brown will be participating on The Wheel of Content panel, presented by Core Image Studio, featuring ESPN analyst Mina Kimes and FOX Sports host Joy Taylor. Through their discussion, she intends to showcase a different perspective of what goes into content creation and the interaction that takes place between involved parties.

“A lot of times in the past, all the talent were on one panel; all the programmers were on one panel,” Brown said. “To put talent and a programmer together, I think it’s an opportunity for people to hear both sides on certain issues.”

According to the most recent Nielsen Total Audience Report, AM/FM (terrestrial) radio among persons 18-34 has a greater average audience than television. The statistical anomaly, which was forecast several years earlier, came to fruition most likely due to emerging technologies and concomitant shifts in usage patterns.

Simultaneously, good content is required to captivate consumers, and radio, through quantifiable and qualifiable metrics, has been able to tailor its content to the listening audience and integrate it across multiple platforms of dissemination. The panel will give Brown a chance to speak in front of her peers and other industry professionals about changes in audio consumption, effectuated by emerging technologies and concomitant shifts in usage patterns.

Yet when it comes to radio as a whole, the patterns clearly point towards the proliferation of digital content – whether those be traditional radio programs or modernized podcasts. Moreover, utilizing various elements of presentation provides consumers a greater opportunity of finding and potentially engaging with the content.

“We do YouTube streaming; obviously, we stream on our app,” Brown said. “We’ve even created, at times, stream-only shows whether it’s stream-only video or stream-only on our app. We all know that people want content on-demand when they want it. I think it’s about giving them what they want.”

As a woman in sports media, Brown is cognizant about having to combat misogyny from those inside and outside of the industry, and is grateful to have had the support of many colleagues. In holding a management position in the second-largest media market in the United States, she strives to set a positive example to aspiring broadcasters. Additionally, she aims to be a trusted and accessible voice to help empower and give other women chances to work in the industry – even if she is not universally lauded.

“I’ve kind of always made it my goal to be like, ‘I’m no different than anyone else – yes, I’m a female – but I’m no different than anyone else,’” Brown expressed. “My whole goal was that I didn’t need people to like me; I needed people to respect me.”

Through attending events such as the BSM Summit and remaining immersed in sports media and the conversation at large about the future of sports media, Brown can roughly delineate how she can perform her job at a high level.

Although the genuine future of this business is always subject to change, she and her team at ESPN Los Angeles 710 are trying to come up with new ideas to keep the content timely, accurate, informative, and entertaining. She is content in her role as program director with no aspirations to become a general manager; however, remaining in her current role requires consistent effort and a penchant for learning.

“Relationships are very important overall in this business whether you’re a programmer or not,” Brown said. “Relationships with your talent; relationships with your staff. If you invest in your people, then they’re going to be willing to work hard for you and do what you ask them to do.”

The 2023 BSM Summit is mere days away, and those from Los Angeles and numerous other marketplaces will make the trip to The Founder’s Club at the Galen Center at the University of Southern California (USC).

Aside from Brown, Kimes and Taylor, there will be other voices from across the industry sharing their thoughts on aspects of the industry and how to best shape it going forward, including Colin Cowherd, Rachel Nichols, Al Michaels and Eric Shanks. More details about the industry’s premiere media conference can be found at

“I’m excited to be a female program director amongst male program directors for the first time and get a seat at the table and represent that there can be diversity in this position,” Brown said. “We don’t see a lot of it, but… there is an opportunity, and I hope I can be an example for other people out there [to show] that it’s possible.”

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BSM Writers

Pat McAfee Has Thrown Our Business Into a Tailspin

Yet even with all the accomplishments he’s been able to achieve, McAfee is still anxious and unsatisfied with the state of his show and his career.

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When you have one of the hottest talk shows in America, you’re always up to something. That’s the case for the most popular sports talk show host in America – Pat McAfee. 

The former Pro Bowl punter was on top of the world on Wednesday. With over 496,000 concurrent viewers watching at one point, McAfee was able to garner an exclusive interview with frequent guest Aaron Rodgers who announced his intention to play for the Jets.

Yet even with all the accomplishments he’s been able to achieve — a new studio, consistent high viewership, a syndication deal with SportsGrid TV, a four-year, $120 million deal with FanDuel — McAfee is still anxious and unsatisfied with the state of his show and his career.

At the end of the day, he is human and he’s admitted that balancing his show, his ESPN gig with “College Gameday,” and his WWE obligations has taken a toll on him.

McAfee and his wife are expecting their first child soon and he recently told The New York Post he might step away from his deal with FanDuel. Operating his own company has come with the responsibility of making sure his studio is up and running, finding people to operate the technology that puts his show on the air, negotiating with huge behemoths like the NFL for game footage rights, booking guests, booking hotels, implementing marketing plans and other tasks that most on-air personalities rarely have to worry about.

McAfee says he’s looking for a network that would be able to take control of those duties while getting more rest and space to spend time with family while focusing strictly on hosting duties. FanDuel has its own network and has the money to fund such endeavors but is just getting started in the content game. McAfee needs a well-known entity to work with who can take his show to the next level while also honoring his wishes of keeping the show free on YouTube.

The question of how he’s going to be able to do it is something everyone in sports media will be watching. As The Post pointed out in their story, McAfee hasn’t frequently stayed with networks he’s been associated with in the past for too long. He’s worked with Westwood One, DAZN, and Barstool but hasn’t stayed for more than a year or two.

There’s an argument to be made that the latter two companies weren’t as experienced as a network when McAfee signed on with them compared to where they are today which could’ve pushed the host to leave. But at the end of the day, networks want to put money into long-term investments and it’s easy to see a network passing on working with McAfee for fear that he’ll leave them astray when he’s bored. 

It’ll also be difficult for McAfee to find a network that doesn’t put him behind a paywall. Amazon and Google are rumored to be potential new homes. But both are trying to increase subscribers for their respective streaming services.

It will be difficult to sell Amazon on investing money to build a channel on YouTube – a rival platform. For Google, they may have the tech infrastructure to create television-like programming but they aren’t an experienced producer, they’ve never produced its own live, daily talk show, and investing in McAfee’s show doesn’t necessarily help increase the number of subscribers watching YouTube TV.

Networks like ESPN, CBS, NBC, and Fox might make sense to partner with. But McAfee faces the possibility of being censored due to corporate interests. Each of these networks also operates its networks or streaming channels that air talk programming of their own. Investing in McAfee could cannibalize the programming they already own.

And if McAfee works with a traditional network that isn’t ESPN, it could jeopardize his ability to host game casts for Omaha or analyze games on Gameday. It’s not impossible but would definitely be awkward on days that McAfee does his show remotely from locations of ESPN games with ESPN banners and signage that is visible in the background.

If SportsGrid has the money to invest in McAfee, they might be his best bet. They have all the attributes McAfee needs and they already have a relationship with him. It is probably unlikely that he’ll be censored and he would even be able to maintain a relationship with FanDuel – a company SportsGrid also works alongside.  

Roku is another option — they already work with Rich Eisen — but they would move his show away from YouTube, something McAfee should resist since the majority of smart TV users use YT more than any other app.

If the NFL gave McAfee editorial independence, they would make the perfect partner but the likelihood of that happening is slim to none. NFL Media has independence but it was clear during the night of the Damar Hamlin incident that they will do whatever is necessary to stay away from serious topics that make the league look bad until it’s totally unavoidable. 

It’s hard to think of a partner that matches up perfectly with McAfee’s aspirations. But once again, at the moment, he’s on top of the world so anything is possible. The talk show host’s next move will be even more interesting to watch than the other fascinating moves he’s already made that have put the sports media industry in a swivel.

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BSM Writers

5 Tips For Networking At the BSM Summit

“Have a plan and don’t leave home without it.”

Jeff Caves




Bring your game plan if you attend the BSM Summit in LA next Tuesday and Wednesday. No matter your purpose for attending: to learn, get a job, speak, or sell an idea, you must be able to read the room. To do that, it helps to know who will be there and how you can cure their pain. 

Have a plan and don’t leave home without it. If you have time, buy How to Work a Room by Susan Roane. If you don’t, just follow these five tips:

  1. INTRODUCE YOURSELF: Before you arrive at The Summit, figure out what you want, who you want to meet, and what you will say. Once you get there, scout out the room and see if anyone of those people are available. Talk to speakers after they have spoken- don’t worry if you miss what the next speaker says. You are there to meet new people! Most speakers do not stick around for the entire schedule, and you don’t know if they will attend any after-parties, so don’t risk it. Refine your elevator pitch and break the ice with something you have in common. Make sure you introduce yourself to Stephanie, Demetri and Jason from BSM. They know everybody and will help you if they can.  
  2. GET A NAME TAG: Don’t assume that name tags will be provided. Bring your own if you and make your name clear to read. If you are looking to move to LA or want to sell a system to book better guests, put it briefly under your name. Study this to get better at remembering names.
  3. LOSE THE NOTEBOOK: When you meet folks, ensure your hands are free. Have a business card handy and ask for one of theirs. Remember to look people in the eye and notice what they are doing. If they are scanning the room, pause until they realize they are blowing you off. Do whatever it takes to sound upbeat and open. Don’t let their clothes, hair, or piercings distract from your message. You don’t need to wear a suit and tie but do bring your best business casual wear. A blazer isn’t a bad idea either. 
  4. SHUT UP FIRST! The art of knowing when to end the convo is something you will have to practice. You can tell when the other person’s eye starts darting or they are not using body language that tells you the convo will continue. You end it by telling them you appreciate meeting them and want to connect via email. Ask for a business card. Email is more challenging to ignore than a LinkedIn request, and you can be more detailed in what you want via email. 
  5. WORK THE SCHEDULE: Know who speaks when. That is when you will find the speakers hanging around. Plan your lunch outing to include a few fellow attendees. Be open and conversational with those around you. I am a huge USC fan, so I would walk to McKays– a good spot with plenty of USC football memorabilia on the walls. Sometimes you can find the next day’s speakers at the Day 1 after party. Need a bar? Hit the 901 Club for cheap beer, drinks, and food. 

You’re welcome. 

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Barrett Media Writers

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