The Beauty of TNT’s “Inside the NBA”

When I signed up to write the Editor’s Column for this week’s issue of The Maroon-News, I immediately ran into a problem: I had no idea what to write about. A few ideas seemed appealing at first, but they all involved me complaining about some little aspect of society à la the late great Colgate graduate Andy Rooney.

The fact that my jacket was taken out of its cubby at the gym; the fact that Campus Safety is unable to find said jacket after four weeks when they have multiple security cameras literally pointed directly at said cubby; La Iguana’s impressively bad service (Hint: hire a fulltime host/hostess); the lack of parking on campus; the fact that HamPo has nothing better to do in this town than pull me over for failing to fully stop at a stop sign at 12:30 a.m. last week on the way home from the library with no one else on the streets. 

In any event, I digress.

A friend of mine wisely told me to just write about something I like, so that is exactly what I will do, and in the process I think I may be able to right a very egregious wrong. TNT’s “Inside the NBA” is the single greatest show in the history of television, and it is not getting the credit it deserves. The fact that I even have to explain the show so that some of the readership can understand to what I’m referring is ridiculous in and of itself, but here it is. 

“Inside the NBA” is the postgame show for all NBA games broadcast on TNT and it is a constant source of laughs for me and my friends. The show features host Ernie Johnson playing the role of mediator for a panel of three notoriously outlandish retired NBA players: Kenny Smith, Shaquille O’Neal and the infamous Charles Barkley. You honestly don’t even have to watch the basketball game, just sit back and enjoy the hilarious banter of the crew.

Let me be clear on one thing: “Inside the NBA” has certainly gotten its fair share of accolades, and in fact has won eight Emmy Awards in its 16 years of existence. My issue here is that I frankly do not think that my peers recognize its genius. 

Our generation has been raised in a world full of so-called unscripted reality television, and we immediately think of shows like “Flavor of Love,” “The Real World” and “16 and Pregnant” when the topic is brought up. But the popularity of these shows is totally unwarranted, due in no small part to the fact that they are all so blatantly fake. If you are looking for pure, unadulterated, unscripted television, skip MTV and go right to TNT to watch “Inside the NBA.” 

Sure, the directors have a basic framework and list of topics on which they want Shaq, Kenny and Chuck to touch, but the real substance of the show is completely ad-libbed, and that’s the beauty of it. Almost nowhere else in television can you watch celebrities or athletes really be themselves and talk how they want to talk. Getting to hear Charles Barkley claim that basketball statistics and analytics are just something that “some people who were really smart made up to get in the game cause they didn’t have any talent,” or that the NBA only shows New York Knicks highlights because the NBA office is in Manhattan, is just great. You know that stuff simply can’t be written, and it is beautiful because of it. The camaraderie between the four of them, and the crude, often borderline inappropriate jokes all come with their analyzing random regular-season basketball games, and yet it is so much more entertaining and substantive than “16 and Pregnant” could ever be. And that’s an objective fact, not an opinion, folks.